Numerous types of businesses manage their affairs by maintaining accounts. These include banks, credit card companies, and utility companies. The accounts that these businesses maintain are actually personalized files. To differentiate one file from another, each file is generally given an account number to identify it.
Account numbers are generally very useful and efficient file management tools. If a person goes to a bank to open a checking account, she should be given a checking account number. The purpose of this number is to manage transactions that pertain specifically to that customer’s transactions. If she needs to make a deposit, she will use her account number so the money can be credited to her and not to someone else. If she needs to withdraw funds, she will need her account number to ensure that she is not taking funds that do not belong to her.
Companies that manage customer files using account numbers often find it easiest to identify a customer file using this number. Names, for example, can create a problem because there may be many people with the same name. Account numbers, however, should be unique. Duplicate account numbers within a company are generally a mistake and can create numerous problems.
Account numbers can be completely numeric or they can be alpha numeric. Each company can generally decide how to format its account numbers. Businesses generally structure these numbers so an account number from another company cannot be mistaken for one of their own. For example, a bank should be able to readily identify that a mistake has been made if a customer uses her credit card account number.
Depending upon the type of account, there can be substantial risk involved in losing or sharing an account number. There are numerous reasons for this. A primary reason is that a customer’s file often contains confidential information such as her identity number, credit information, and her home address. Another reason that protection of account numbers is important is because if strangers obtain the numbers, they may gain access to a person’s resources, such as her finances.
Since many companies use account numbers, most companies try to make it convenient for clients to manage them. They do this by including each customer’s account number on statements and bills sent to them. The number is often printed on each check when a person has a checking account. Some businesses issue cards to each customer containing her unique number.