Am I being paranoid or smart? (giving out bank info)

Years ago, I was active on a small message board. I made a lot of “friends” there, some of who I met in real life, some who I haven’t due to distance. When the message board was shut down, we started a facebook group and continue to keep in contact.

Every year this group gets together for a long weekend and I’ve never been able to attend. This year I intended to go, but had to move unexpectedly, which threw my finances into turmoil. Knowing this, one of the members solicited donations to go towards plane tickets and coordinated with another member so that I have a place to stay when I land. This is incredibly thoughtful and I’m so excited that I finally get to go after years of missing out and seeing all the fun they’re having!

This weekend, the friend that collected donations contacted me and asked for my bank info so that she could transfer the funds to me. My immediate response was “well sure!” but after thinking about it for a minute I started to feel funny. I’ve never met this person face to face although we have been friends for years over the internet and have exchanged phone numbers and gifts through the mail. I’ve contributed to multiple fundraisers for other members of the group and have never gotten wind of anything going astray.

Am I being a paranoid jerk by asking for a check instead of a transfer? I feel funny making demands about how someone gives me money, but on the other hand, giving bank info out to someone I don’t actually know seems like a bonehead move.

I feel like a suspicious monster, this lovely woman took time to do something nice for me and I’m looking at her sideways just because we’ve never met face to face. I’m also swallowing the standard Midwestern Guilt over accepting help in the first place, so questioning that help is extra embarrassing.

I’ve had electronic transfers from individuals both into and out of my bank account many, many times without any problems. Giving your account number will not allow the person to make withdrawls and you will get the money faster. If you need more reassurance, call your bank and ask them.
That is a nice gift you have received. Your friends like you and want to see you. Accept the gift and return the favor by being good company and having fun!

A lovely gift indeed! You deserve the vacation.

The information they need is just your routing number, I believe. That’s printed on every check you write (or receive). There’s no risk.

I believe, every time you pay for something with a personal check, you are giving them all they would need to know in order to transfer funds into your account (which, sadly, they are very unlikely to do). The bank’s routing number and your account number are imprinted electronically on the bottom of your check.

Great, so I’m being suspicious over nothing! :stuck_out_tongue: Thanks for the replies!

If I may piggyback on the OP …

Last week I logged into my account at one bank and tried to set up a link to my account at another bank (whose funds I intend to empty out via a one-time transfer). In order to verify that I am the owner of the second bank account, the first bank wanted me to give them the username and password to that second bank’s website.

Never having seen such a prompt before (and I’ve set up such linkages to brick-and-mortar banks from the online-only Ally Bank), I cautiously backed out of the procedure without submitting any authentication information. Was I being overly paranoid, or is the request I got now the typical behavior when banks want to set up third-party connections?

**biqu **- I have accounts in 2 different credit union - one in Florida that we’ve had over 30 years and one here in Maryland that’s maybe 2 years old. The FL CU has a money management program on their site that can access my MD account to get balance information. When FL tried to access the MD account with the account # and password I supplied, the MD credit union challenged me with one of my security questions. No problems have ensued.

If you actually have paper checks, you could mail her a deposit slip, if that makes you feel better, or you could ask her to put the money into your Paypal account, then you can transfer it to your bank.

But it’s true that unless someone is very lax at your bank, she won’t be able to withdraw money; she won’t even be able to find out what your balance is without a PIN, password, or ID showing that her name is on the account.

She needs the name of your bank (ie, Chase), your routing number, and your account number. If you pay any bills online, you have entered that information into computers where people you don’t know can see it.

Does your bank notify you of unusual activity? if so, then should anyone try to make a large withdrawal, you will get a phone call, and can put a hold on the transaction.

I have had my bank call me for things that were legitimate, but unusual, for example, when I made a $60 ATM withdrawal in California, and I had never made a withdrawal in that state before, or when I paid for some $700 auto work with my debit card, and that was some figure, like 150%, over average withdrawals, or something.

I wouldn’t worry. But if it puts your mind at ease, check with your bank on its policy of notifying you of atypical activity.

I went in on a group gift with other online friends, I just sent my bit to the organizers paypal account. The only risk to me was the amount of my contribution should the organizer decide to absconde with our money. She didn’t.

I’ve gotten all of my friends onto PayPal (my friends are mostly all age 50 or older, so as the resident guy in the group who can use technology, it’s been an uphill battle), it by far is the “easy way to send and receive money.”

But in a pinch what the OP describes is safe and fine, and plus you’ve known this person for years. Use a tad bit of common sense, do you really think someone has invested years into a long con over what I suspect isn’t a Bill Gates sized bank account? And of course as others have stated out, banking relies on your routing/account number not being secret–in fact it can’t be secret, and it’s no harm for others to know it.

The controls that are supposed to protect you are that you have to officially authorize withdrawals through various mechanisms. The old way was basically checks, which you had to sign and etc (now people have committed check fraud for sure, but you’re protected against fraud and would ultimately be reimbursed by your bank.)

Asking for an account number seems a bit forward, although likely innocent. It would be one thing if she offered a check, and you countered with an electronic transfer.

Simply explain that you would prefer a check. Alternatively, you could suggest an “electronic check” sent by her bank’s “bill payment” portal (in which case you would only need to give your address and perhaps phone number), or perhaps a PayPal transfer.

Routing and account number, but yes it’s right there on every check.

Personally, my first thought would have been just to ask them to paypal it to me. Same money, no account information handed over.

In the UK anyway, it’s very common to pay electronically. I feel a little odd giving out the info but it hasn’t bitten me yet.

In Canada you can do the same thing with interac but as long as the other person has registered on their end, all you need is their email address and you give them a password when you make the transfer. That way no one feels uncomfortable giving out private info. I much prefer that.

So how could they misuse the info? That idea is silly. They cannot take money out without your signature, Some banks now don’t even allow deposits from unknown sources due to the War n drugs and the fantasy that The USA should dominate the world.

But again - the routing number and the account number are on every check one writes, and that’s all that’s required to wire money. If the OP were to request a check instead…she’d get the payor’s account number. Not so forward, really. It’s not like account numbers are a big secret. You share it every time you write a check.

PayPal would be easier, but not everyone has a PayPal account. Since this online group of friends has gotten together to do a very nice thing, it seems to me gracious to let them give in the way that’s easiest for them. I’d rather get money wired to my account than have to faff about with waiting for a check to be mailed, to clear my bank, etc.

Not that they wouldn’t get caught almost immediately, but all I need to pay my cable bill each month is my name, bank account number and routing number.

I could also use that information to make bad checks.
I don’t want to dissuade the OP from doing this with someone they seem to more or less trust, but giving out your baking information to random people could certainly end not well.

She probably doesn’t have paper checks-- I don’t-- and would have to go to the bank for a cashier’s check or counter checks. Yes, it’s possible to send you one through the bank, but perhaps she actually felt more forward asking for your snail mail address than asking for your account information. How old is she?

So don’t publish a cook book? Got it! :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ll be sure to get a good editor if I do.

True, but generally you only give checks to companies or individuals you trust… perhaps a cashier’s check or money order might be more appropriate here.