Help with sending sensitive information over the Net
December 22, 2017 2:23 PM   Subscribe

My relatives are going to help me with a large purchase; the trouble is, we are on a time frame (due to someone's unprofessionalism) and they'd like me to e-mail them a scan of the check with all the numbers in order to make the transfer.

(They are in another country.)

This seem like all kinds of asking for trouble to me, as does sending all the numbers (I said I could send three or four emails breaking them up, but they don't want that.)

So 1) I don't have to convince term (though I would like to) and 2)more urgently, please recommend a easy and quick encryption program (free too!) for me. Really easy, as my computer knowledge is average.
posted by intrepid_simpleton to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why don't you call them?
posted by AFABulous at 2:30 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

They are reimbursing you for this purchase and want to see the check you've written? Just scan the check, use something like (expiring link, encrypted content, works with any browser, details) and you're good.
posted by jessamyn at 2:30 PM on December 22, 2017 [12 favorites]

It's not much of a security risk just sending them the information. After all, the numbers are printed right on every check. See this previous ask.
posted by homesickness at 2:35 PM on December 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

Point of clarification - I can't figure out exactly what they want . Do they need a check, or more exactly the routing and account numbers (etc.) to make a transfer to you? In which case your bank can give you all the details that you need, to send to them.

Or do they need a scan of the check - where I am not sure what the (specific) check is.
posted by carter at 3:01 PM on December 22, 2017

Do you and they have smartphones? WhatsApp is an encrypted messaging service that is very simple to use - it works just like text messages. You can send images with it, so you could just take a photo of the check and send it.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 3:08 PM on December 22, 2017

There's no risk. Everything on the check is perfectly fine. We put that into on websites to allow EFT payments, and that's what your relatives will be doing.

Basically all Americans worry about this; no Europeans do; nobody should.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:18 PM on December 22, 2017

If you are American, please disregard the answers saying that your bank account number getting out is no big deal. They are incorrect. Check fraud happens all the time because printing a fake check is easy and there is no more security to the whole process than the secrecy of your account number. See my answer to the question that got me to join MetaFilter for more info.

You are right to not want to send it over email, which is one of the most insecure ways of transmitting information. Partially because of the protocol, but mostly because people's email accounts get compromised all the time. Putting sensitive information into an email to someone else is a time bomb, since the default is now to save every email you ever receive for the rest of time. When one of the involved accounts gets compromised your bank account number will still be there.

Overnight a check to the counterparty, setup payments via ACH through an online portal secured with HTTPS, or ask your own bank for other possible solutions. Also avoid wires.
posted by books for weapons at 3:45 PM on December 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: I thought of calling too. For some reason they don't want to call (time difference and holiday nuttiness I suspect). They are asking me for the numbers to make a transfer to my account; they thought a check would be better to take to the bank than a handful of numbers is my guess. But why would I have to call my bank for the info when all the info is on the check?

I will look at what's app and the firefox link. Darling Bri, I'm sending over plain text e-mail, is that different? Or not.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 3:47 PM on December 22, 2017

If you aren't comfortable sending a picture or account numbers from your usual account, you can set up a new account just for these things. If it's at the same bank you usually use, tell them you do NOT want any overdraft protection from your other accounts for this one.

If they don't already have your bank info, you can do this without explaining it to your relatives, in case it would either hurt their feelings or lead to even more confusion.

Once you get the money you can transfer it out of the new account. You might want to keep the account open, in case this situation comes up again or your relatives ever want to give you a surprise.
posted by yohko at 4:08 PM on December 22, 2017

The only thing a "hacker" could do if they obtain this information is deposit money INTO your account. There's zero risk sending this information in any form, by any method.
posted by humboldt32 at 4:11 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

But why would I have to call my bank for the info when all the info is on the check?

I do not know what info your rellies already have, but, all the required info for a transfer is not on the check.

Their Bank may well ask them for other info - for instance there is a code # for the bank, an official street address (in my experience not necessarily the same as your branch address), etc. Your Bank has a list of info that anyone (including Their Bank) needs to supply, to successfully route a transfer to Your Bank.

When your rellies walk into Their Bank, the bank will probably ask them for this. So you need to ask Your Bank for what specific info you need to forward to the rellies, so that they can supply Their Bank with this info when they walk in.
posted by carter at 4:56 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

you could just scan the files and put them on they will be automatically erased after they’re downloaded. this is definitely safer than sending by email.

if they use whatsapp, iMessage, or a similar service, that’s another option. you’re right to be suspicious of email but a lot of other easy options are reasonably secure.
posted by vogon_poet at 4:56 PM on December 22, 2017

>I do not know what info your rellies already have, but, all the required info for a transfer is not on the check.

Sure it its. Account and routing number are all that's needed.
posted by humboldt32 at 5:34 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's an international transfer. Not sure what countries are involved, but for UK > US transfers, you do need more info than is on the check. A bank SWIFT code is required, for instance. But I don't want to make specific recommendations for intrepid_simpleton, as I do not know what banks/countries are involved. i_s should call their bank.
posted by carter at 5:42 PM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Is this a house purchase, or some other purchase that uses a transfer agent like a Title company or real estate attorney? If so these kinds of companies usually have secure portals that allow sensitive financial documents to be uploaded securely.
posted by littlewater at 5:46 PM on December 22, 2017

btw if the time frame is not super-super tight, and this is a large-ish transaction being set up, overnight Fedex etc. is an option too.
posted by carter at 5:50 PM on December 22, 2017

International transfers work differently from domestic ones - definitely contact your bank if this is not something you’ve done before and it’s time-sensitive. You may need a SWIFT code, a routing code or another piece of information, as well as the account number on the check. You can then send this info by any of the methods suggested above.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 6:56 PM on December 22, 2017

You could put the image of the check in a zip file with a password on it. Make sure you use a 10+ character password.
posted by gregr at 7:37 PM on December 22, 2017

I've done international wires (not with a UK bank) and I needed to send routing number, account number and, per carter, the bank address (ie the main bank address for my particular city) which was different from my branch. There are also fees at either end unless you have an accounts that provide free wire transfers as a benefit.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:41 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

This may be obvious, but are you sure it's really them asking? There are some overseas fraud red flags in what you're saying.
posted by idb at 9:29 PM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

I am not sure i understand completely, but i think there might be something you are misunderstanding about international money transfers... do your relatives just need the account numbers on the check?

If this is the case, the security risk is very low. In many other countries (apologies if this is not your case and i misunderstand). In many countries there are no checks and money is transferred to your account by you telling the other party what your account numbers are and the other party telling the bank to transfer the money to those account numbers. If that's what your family needs, simply send those numbers in an email. This is minimal risk and done all the time. Everyone knows other people's bank account numbers. They numbers let them put money into the account, but not take it out.
posted by jazh at 9:32 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Google Docs is a nice way of securely sharing with someone. Create a Google Doc document, paste an image into it and then share it by adding their email addresses. They will need to log into a Google account to view it, which is secured via HTTPS and has very solid account security.

Don't use the "anyone with this link can view this document option" though - make sure they have to sign in with a google account to view.
posted by simonw at 2:25 AM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: idb--I appreciate your concern, but it is them.

All: We seem to be split fairly evenly here and I still don't know what to do.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 6:47 AM on December 23, 2017

Call your bank and ask them this question. They will know the security risks, and the information your relatives will need.
posted by Capri at 7:18 AM on December 23, 2017

The google doc approach is good. Another one might be an encrypted .zip file (using 7-zip), which as I recall is very easy to do.
posted by idb at 8:24 AM on December 23, 2017

Where does the OP say this is an international transfer? Even if it is you can communicate the SWIFT/IBAN number unencrypted as well. It's done all the time.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:38 AM on December 23, 2017

Call. Your. Bank. Tell them you need to receive an international transfer, and they can help you determine whether that will be EFT or a wire, what info the sender needs, and possibly put your mind at ease about security.
posted by jeoc at 3:04 PM on December 23, 2017

Where does the OP say this is an international transfer?
The question says: (They are in another country.)
posted by soelo at 5:56 PM on December 23, 2017

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