There's a ton of information about liability related to fraudulent debit and credit card charges, and even a little about fraudulent checks, but I'm having trouble finding similar information about account and routing numbers.

Under United States federal law, what liability, if any, would I have as a US citizen? Do most US banks offer even more protection than required by law?


Suppose I give my bank account and routing number to an apartment complex for their rental application. (Seems excessive....) What if they turn out not to be? What if they turn around and write fraudulent checks or electronic wire transfers (or similar) and get money from my account? What am I liable for, if anything?

  • Related: money.stackexchange.com/questions/4350/…
    – jvriesem
    May 9, 2017 at 6:38
  • 1
    Seems excessive.... Yeah, that's something to do after getting accepted.
    – RonJohn
    May 9, 2017 at 12:34
  • See regulation E (Note: citizenship doesn't matter only being a person, but you may have trouble opening an account in a US bank if you don't have SSN and that requires citizen/national or certain categories of aliens that are authorized to work for pay.) Jun 1, 2017 at 0:52

1 Answer 1


The simple answer is that you have to read the terms and conditions when you sign up for a checking account at the bank. The process of fraud investigation varies from bank to bank.

Ultimately most banks will refund the money if you are not deemed negligent. Some banks offer quick reimbursement during fraud claims, but many will not refund the money until the investigation is complete (which can take several weeks).

Checking accounts are terrible security problems. If you're looking for ways to avoid a hassle, stop writing checks and using ATM/Debit cards. If you must send checks to pay bills, use the bill-pay system that is now common with most banks (they use a service to send checks on your behalf and don't even charge you for postage unless you ask for expedited processing).

  • 1
    Wait, so bill-pay still involves physical checks? I thought it just established an ACH push order.
    – CactusCake
    May 31, 2017 at 14:54
  • @CactusCake I guess that depends on the implementation and whether you supply an account to push to or an address to send to. May 31, 2017 at 16:44
  • 1
    @CactusCake it depends on who you're sending the money to. (Small businesses like my bottled water service and alarm company get sent checks, but everyone else is payed via EDI. The bill payment service handled that determination for me.)
    – RonJohn
    Jul 1, 2017 at 2:50
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    @CactusCake For my credit union, it depends on if the payee is big enough to setup a relationship with. For the local hospital, electric company, etc. they do send the payments electronically. For others they'll send a check. I have had some payees go from check to electronic since I originally started billpay, so its something they actively work to expand.
    – Andy
    Jul 2, 2017 at 19:17

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