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Can a name be gotten from an account number for whom the account bearer is not known? That is to say, should Tim send Jim ONLY his account number, can Jim identify Tim with this information alone?


This question is turning out to be a bit creepy, but I'm just going to ask it anyway because I'm curious.

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    What kind of account? – JohnFx Nov 14 '14 at 14:16
  • Not without additional information, certainly. And that info should be difficult to get. – keshlam Apr 13 '15 at 12:41
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It really depends on what kinds of accounts you're talking about. If the account is like my HOA - "The Little Advisor - 7408" - then it will probably identify me personally (of course that's not the exact account I have with the HOA). If it is an account with my bank which is built of seemingly random digits and not based on my personal name - I doubt anyone can deduct that I own it just by looking at that random number.

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The ability to guess the name of the account holder depends on several factors.

  • The size of the organization. Small organizations can create the account number based off the last name of the person, or the building number. This can mean that the information in the number can assist as a direct clue or a confirmation that a guess is correct.
  • When the account system was created can play a role. Pre-computers a simple algorithm could be used to assign the numbers. In a computer based system with an accessible central repository of data the algorithm can be more complex with check sums, and has the ability to instantly generate a unique number.
  • As the systems became more advanced some organizations kept the old numbering system for existing accounts, others reassigned account numbers.

One advantage to the more complex systems is to make it harder to guess the other information that needs to be protected. No matter how complex the system, the organization should be protecting their customers by not allowing random people to ask the question: Is the last name of customer Zamboni123, Smith?

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