Your bank account and routing numbers provide access to your hard-earned money. Therefore, it’s critical to protect them. Understanding what these number are for and how they’re used can help keep them from falling into the wrong hands.
Your bank account has both an account number and a routing number associated with it. Both of these numbers are used to identify your account and facilitate any transactions being made with the account, including direct deposits, peer-to-peer payments, online bill payments, and check payments. Let’s take a closer look at each number:
- Routing number. A routing number identifies your financial institution. Each financial institution has their own 9-digit routing number. This number can typically be found on your bank’s website (usually in the site’s footer or on their FAQ page). Your routing number can also be found on your checks - it is the first nine digits at the bottom of your check.
- Account number. An account number is the number associated with your specific bank account. If you have multiple accounts with the same bank, the account numbers will differ for each account. Your account number can usually be found within your Online Banking account or on your monthly bank statements. It can also be found on your checks – it’s the second set of digits at the bottom of the check.
Protecting Your Account & Routing Numbers
Although a routing number is essentially public information, it’s important to safeguard both your account number and routing number in order to protect your accounts. If a fraudster knows your routing number they can easily tell which financial institution your funds are at, putting you at risk of phishing attempts. If a criminal has both your routing number and account number they can potentially steal money from your account through fraudulent ACH transfers and payments.
Here are some tips for protecting your bank account and routing numbers:
1. Be cautious with checks. Since bank checks contain both your account number and routing number, as well as personal information such as your name and address, it is critical to be smart when using them. Only use checks with trusted people or businesses and keep them in a safe location where they can’t be easily stolen. If you’ve sent someone a check and they haven’t cashed it within a reasonable amount of time, call them to be sure they received it. If they haven't, put a stop payment on the check so someone else can’t cash it. Keep in mind that there are now more secure ways to pay people, including online bill payments and peer-to-peer payment providers like Venmo and Zelle.
2. Avoid writing down your account and routing numbers. Treat your account number like your social security number. You shouldn’t write it down where it could fall into the wrong hands. You should also refrain from storing it on your phone or computer, unless it’s locked down by a password. You’re better off knowing where to retrieve your account number from your bank, rather than storing it in an unsecure location.
3. Verify anyone asking for your account or routing number. There are many online resources and mobile apps that can help you manage your finances. These tools and programs often require you to allow them to access to your financial accounts so they can track your spending and make budget recommendations. Before allowing this kind of access, it’s crucial for you to verify the legitimacy of the tool or app. Beware of fake apps and websites than can look like the real thing. Likewise, beware of phishing texts, emails, or phone calls purporting to be from your bank. Your bank will never contact you and ask for your account number. If you have any concerns about the legitimacy of a bank communication, call your bank directly at their publicly-listed phone number.
4. Monitor your bank accounts regularly. Use Online Banking or your bank’s mobile app to monitor the activity in your accounts carefully. Check your accounts at least weekly, and if you see any transactions you don’t recognize, call your bank right away to report the suspicious activity.
5. Store bank statements securely. Always store your bank account statements in a secure place at home, and shred them when you don’t need them anymore. Rather than receive paper statements in the mail, you should consider opting into eStatements. With eStatements, your bank statements are delivered to you electronically and securely, typically through Online Banking. Your Online Banking account will usually store at least 2 years of statements, making it easy for you to retrieve them when necessary, without the risk of them falling into the wrong hands.
Being responsible with your bank account numbers can help you keep your finances safe. At BankFive, our goal is to ensure our customers are well informed and have the tools they need to protect themselves from scammers and fraudsters. For the most up-to-date security alerts and tips, visit https://www.bankfive.com/personal/resources/security.