Is giving away the routing number safe? Consumers have natural concerns about their bank accounts being hacked thanks to the fact there are so many bank breaches. One common question is whether a checking account can be hacked using only the bank’s routing number. The simple answer is that accounts can’t be hacked with only a routing number. The more complicated answer is that, in some cases, a hacker can guess at account numbers and hack any bank account.
What Is a Routing Number?
Routing numbers are also called ABA Routing Numbers. These numbers are assigned by the American Banking Association (ABA) to each bank. Banks may have more than one routing number because of mergers or other special circumstances. Banks can request up to five routing numbers for internal use. You should be aware that there are websites which list ABA numbers for every bank doing business in the United States. Acuity is the company which is responsible for the registration of the more than 26,895 routing numbers assigned to banks.
Why Would I Give Someone My Routing Number?
If you are making electronic payments online to save money, signing up for direct deposit with your employer, or accepting money transfers from someone to your bank account, they will need your routing number. In some cases, they will ask you to provide a voided check and both your routing and account number on the check helps ensure the money goes directly to your account.
Understanding Routing Number and Account Numbers on Checks
While someone cannot hack your account directly using only your bank’s routing number, it is important to remember a carelessly disposed of check can result in your bank account being compromised. This is because your personal checks contain both your routing number and your account number. Someone who has access to both of these pieces of information can potentially use them to pay their own bills, purchase items online when a vendor allows direct payment from a checking account, or potentially set up a new bank account funded from your bank account.
Protecting Your Banking Information to Prevent Hacking
The first thing you can do to protect your bank account from being hacked is to make sure you carefully dispose of any checks from your account. Shredding a voided check before disposal can prevent someone from stealing the information and accessing your account. Additionally, if you are providing your routing number and account number on a check, you should make sure you know they are not going to use it for illicit purposes. Your employer, an employee at a bank, or a company with a legitimate reason for having your bank account information (like a mortgage company or utility company) will protect your private information.
How to Know If Your Information Is Compromised
You may not have any money removed from your account if someone uses the routing information and account number on a check. However, you may be denied a credit card and not understand the reasons for the denial. Should this occur, you should immediately check your credit report for any signs that your information is being used by someone else. Review your report carefully for accounts you do not recognize, inquiries made by credit card companies or other lenders, or other suspicious activity that may indicate your identity is being used by another person.
Things to Keep in Mind
While it may not be possible for your checking account to get hacked using only your bank’s routing number, clever hackers could potentially guess at account numbers and get lucky enough to access your account. This is highly unlikely because, in most cases, a hacker is more interested in getting a “big” hit on an account. They are more likely to attempt to hack into a commercial account than a personal account.
You should always use caution when sharing your banking information. Only share the information with a legitimate company who has a reason to need the information. If you are providing a voided check to an employer or a creditor for the purposes of direct deposits or debits, chances are your information is safe. Never offer to share your information via email or any type of chat or instant messenger because these are not secure. Other people could potentially access the data and use your routing number and account number from your check for illegal purposes.
Today more than ever before, we are doing more business online, and this often includes doing our banking online. If you are taking photos of your checks, storing your bank statements on your computer or phone, or doing any banking on your computer or telephone, you may want to consider password protecting the device. Remember, your best defense in preventing your checking account from being hacked or accessed by someone who should not have access is a strong password.