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To pay my credit card, I just need to enter my bank routing and account number. (US institutions.) That's it.

How is that secure? Anyone could enter my bank number and so withdraw my money.

  • 3
    Not sure about the US, but in Europe us can reverse withdrawals by a third party for 3 months, so its actually more secure. – Daniel Sep 25 at 8:21
  • It's not any different from a paper check, which has the bank's routing number and your account number printed on the front. – pboss3010 Sep 25 at 11:32
  • There is also the "collection" (inkaso) option, where you specify another account that can with some regularity (yearly/monthly/weekly) collect "up to certain amount" of money from your account and no more. (i.e. up to 20EUR/monthly) It's how I pay some of my bills (phone bill) - I don't know exactly how much it will be, but I know it shouldn't be more than for example 19EUR. I thus allow T-Mobile to collect automatically and don't bother me with it. In Czech Republic it's called "inkaso". – mishan Oct 23 at 16:30
  • But it's true that CZ (and EU in general) has pretty strict consumer protection laws and those transactions can be reversed (as per @Daniel 's mention). – mishan Oct 23 at 16:33
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I believe one part of what you are asking is,

How is that secure? Anyone could enter my bank number and so withdraw my money.

Consider Bank X.

So, as you explain certain companies, let's say ELectric Company E, can taked $50 from your personal bank account,

and the only thing E needs to know is your account number.

However ...

Note that not just anyone, not just any company, can do that process.

Only companies (example, E) that are extremely well-known to and integrated-with the bank(s), can do that.

I believe that is the sense of what you are asking.

(An interesting question is, has any whole-fake-company ever pulled off enough of a "deep fake" to get in such a position? IDK.) {Note that if some whole-fake-company achieved such a scam, the bank(s) would just take back all the money, so it probably is not a scam-route that any scammers would follow?}

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  • I've heard of it. They were able to vanish just fast enough the banks couldn't roll everything back. The bank that held their business account was holding the bag. – Joshua Sep 25 at 20:00
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You always have two options when paying bills that will come directly from the bank account:

  • Have the vendor pull money from the account by giving them the routing number and account number of the bank account.

  • Give your bank the information need send either a paper or electronic check to the vendor. That requires you to provide to your bank the vendor name, address, phone number, and your account number.

Pulling the money has risks. They could pull too much. They could be evil and empty your bank account. It also has benefits: you can see on the vendor's website that you have paid the bill. You know that most vendors will consider the bill paid if they have used the bank and account info in the past, and there is a network issue that prevents the bill being paid on the date they try to pull the funds.

Pushing the money has issues also. You have to figure out how long it will take to get the check to the vendor. Electronic ones take a business day, paper ones take longer.

Either way you have to check your bank account to make sure the transfers match what you expect. The bank will usually give you a period of time to dispute a transaction.

The bank has systems in place to look for fraudulent transactions, but you are right they can't block everything. You as the owner of the bank account have to be vigilant about checking the transactions regularly. With most banks you can even setup alerts to get an email or text if large transactions occur, or if the balance gets low.

For me the easiest/safest way is to have the vendor bill my credit card. That allows me to dispute the amount or the transaction. They can't empty my bank account. I only allow a pull directly from my bank if they charge x% if I pick the credit card option, and I trust them 100%.

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  • But what if an attacker does this? All they need is public info about my account, and they can withdraw money. – Joshua Fox Sep 25 at 11:03
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    I added a section about this. Even if you never allow any external entity to pull money from your account you have to check all your transactions regularly. Sometimes the bank makes a mistake and the money is pulled from the wrong account. – mhoran_psprep Sep 25 at 11:57
  • Sending a check also provides them with your account info – Kat Sep 30 at 0:09

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