Imagine how many scammers may be trying to steal your bank account. Sometimes, they just need a few pieces of data to breach all your accounts.
That’s why the first step starts with security. You set passwords on your account and not share them with anyone.
What about the account number?
You may notice that when you want to transfer money, all you need to do is enter your number and the destination number. Yet, this number is visible everywhere. Specifically, everyone who ever had to transfer your money has it.
Is that a problem? What can others do with your bank account?
What Can Someone Do With Your Bank Account Number?
Before you panic, let’s say it: there’s no danger in sharing your account number. Everybody does it all the time, and nobody has got scammed because of it.
That doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe. It means the chances are very remote. If someone wanted to steal your money, they would need other data, such as your password, PIN, ID documents, or phone access.
The only thing they can do is send you money.
Well, they are some scam ideas, but it’s unlikely that they’d bother. Because they don’t know who you are nor how much money you have.
Let’s say a scammer is willing to take those chances. What can they do with your bank account number?
#1 Identity Theft (most unlikely)
Scammers may want your account number to gain access. But they’ll also need other information, such as your PIN, password, or documents. The account number is just one of the many steps, and perhaps the least relevant.
Now, most bank numbers appear on checks along with other information. So if someone knows your number, they may also know your address, name, or phone.
You may get an email from someone claiming to be a bank employee or autoresponder:
“The security of your account (number) is at risk. Call this phone number or click on the link below to protect your account.”
“Someone has requested a withdrawal of $1842 from the (number) account. The confirmation PIN is 6936. If you didn’t make this request, immediately protect your account with the link provided below.”
And yes, both links could be phishing attacks. They send you to a cloned bank website and capture your credentials.
It’s not necessary to show the account number on the email. But it makes it more believable for victims.
#2 Check Fraud
If they have your contact information, there are endless scams they could try. But if they also know your address, it’s a good opportunity for check fraud.
Whenever you get a free check for no reason, almost always, someone will ask you to send money somewhere else. Generally “to get more free money”.
Because you got free dollars, you have no excuse not to follow the instructions. It could be someone who sends you $1000 and asks for $400 back for whatever reason.
Generally, the scammer will find your account number in some of your checks and find your contact data. He then contacts you online about some business opportunity, or perhaps as an imposter.
Or he may as well visit your address and mail you the (fake) check with the instructions. And the plan goes like this:
- You cash the check, but it doesn’t clear
- You send some money somewhere else because the scammer promises something
- Days pass and nothing happens
- Your bank confirms the check is fraudulent and deducts it from your account
- You lose the check amount, but the scammer keeps whatever you sent him
#3 Install Malware
Malware and account numbers? What does one have to do with the other?
Imagine you don’t know much about bank account security. You believe that your account number is secret, and if someone knew it, they could steal money from you.
People who have your number often have your contact information. Here’s how it could go:
- The scammer creates a fake email account posing as your banking platform
- The imposter says that someone has breached the platform. This email also says your account is at risk and shows the exact bank number
- Because you’re unprotected, you should immediately click the link below. It sends you to the (cloned) bank website where you can install an anti-malware program
- You install it, and now, the scammer can access all your information. Maybe hack the device or spy on it. So you’ve created the threat you were trying to avoid
It may sound too far-fetched, but it’s the kind of scheme that targets seniors and people who’re unfamiliar with security.
What Should You Do About It?
For the most part, nothing. Banks rarely contact you, let alone mentioning your account number. If you’re worried about your bank security, the best you can do is visit a branch office or call a trusted phone number.
Thankfully, sharing bank account numbers poses no threat. Sharing your address could be more dangerous. But unless you want to get paid, there’s no point in showing your number everywhere.
If you’re concerned about security, it’s good practice to destroy documents you don’t need. Do not keep checks for too long, and don’t sign empty checks.