We live in an age of information and that’s generally a great and amazing thing. Pretty much wherever I go, I can access sports scores or be that obnoxious person who brings Google in to resolve a debate. Sometimes the age of information is not so great, like when the internet convinces me that the itchy throat I have may kill me. That information is so easy to come by and that we humans are social animals may contribute to how willing people are to share the information that they have. When that sharing leads me to a new, delicious and easy way to prepare the mountains of kale in my refrigerator, then that is fantastic. There are, however, moments when it makes sense to keep some information to myself.
The other day a friend of mine asked me for my opinion on sharing information with a person she does not know well. This person owes my friend money and, instead of sending a check, asked for my friend’s bank information so she could just wire the information. She asked me because she did not have a warm and fuzzy feeling about sending this information out and I told her that she should go with her gut. It is the same sort of concept as when someone sends you an email telling you that you have won a million dollars in a lottery that you never bought tickets for. In order for you to receive these incredible winnings, the email will say, you should send them information, including your bank information, so that they can wire this money straight into your account. More often, what happens in these cases is that fraudsters will take money out of your account instead of any lottery (that you never entered) putting money into your account.
Granted, banks have many controls in their systems to help protect customers from fraud but it is smart to be proactive about safeguarding your money. You don’t want to end up reacting and working hard to try to get back money that has been taken out of your account. Granted, when you write a check out to someone, your bank account and routing number are listed at the bottom of the check. However, I would think that you have some kind of idea who you are writing the check out to and the check will have some information about who presented that check for payment. Either way, you should never feel pushed into using a form of payment that you are not comfortable with – if there is personal information that you don’t want to share with someone, and your bank account certainly counts as personal information, it is absolutely fine to keep it to yourself. Tell that person to use Paypal, QuickPay, send you a money order or just that check you asked for in the first place. These alternate payment methods that don’t involve sharing any of your bank information were made for people like us who don’t always feel like putting it all out there.
Generally, if there is a lack of trust when it comes to your money, go with what makes you feel warmest and fuzziest. Also, since wires cost a lot more (for both the sender and receiver) than putting a check in the mail, it may make sense to go with what costs you the least. You know, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you“. Keep your gut happy.