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Looking for a way to confirm user supplied names without asking for a creditcard number.


  • Method must be automated, and not require manual processing,
  • Work 80% of the time or more.
  • Be "free" Not require personally identifiable information such as SSN, driver license number.

For example, doing a cross-reference on phone number to phonebook records would work, problem is that not every number is listed.

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I'm 99.44% sure you can't verify a name with a credit card. That information doesn't get sent to the processors and is not validated by them in any way. – John Conde Oct 20 '10 at 15:12
Interesting, then what information besides the CC# do processors validate? For example: exp-date, card-security-code, etc. – blunders Oct 20 '10 at 15:23
They validate CC#, cvv, street address (the number only), zip code, and exp date although everything but the CC# can be incorrect and the transaction will go through if the card issuing bank so chooses (this varies by bank). They also accept level 2 and 3 data like tax, invoice number, and others for corporate cards. – John Conde Oct 20 '10 at 15:29
@John_Conde: Thanks you very much for the clarification! – blunders Oct 20 '10 at 15:31
Verifying someone's identify without using "personally identifiable information" is, by definition, impossible. – Wooble Oct 20 '10 at 20:17
up vote 7 down vote accepted

In general, on the web with an international audience I think it can't be done, I'm not even sure you can do with a credit card number.

As I see it, you have two choices (and because you didn't give any background information I have no idea if they are relevant for you):

  1. Limit your potential audience to a small group you have information on (example: if you're only targeting students of one college and you have good relationship with the college administration they can give you the student list to compere to).

  2. Restructure you project so you don't need to verify the person's name, (example: use phone number as your verified id instead - send text message with code that the user has to enter into the site to prove access to the phone).

Also, verifying the name may fail because a name has several possible spellings (my name does) or for all sort of strange reasons You should really read this for some good examples

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@Nir: Thanks, and I was unable to think of anything either. Even checking to see if a name input is "real" (Nir) and not "fake" (2ez) gets very complex fast and does not scale well. – blunders Oct 20 '10 at 15:29
Phone numbers have become the defacto method for preventing people from creating too many accounts. Users may have access to 3 or 4 phone numbers at most, but after that they cost real money. It's the method that Gmail, Craigslist and Facebook use to verify and rate-limit account creation. It's probably your best option. – Paul McMillan Oct 22 '10 at 2:33

There is no way to do it for free. There are non-free ways of doing it but they aren't cheap, in the US they require birth date and SSN, and outside the US you get a hodge podge of solutions.

If you decide you want to spend the money check out Lexis Nexis, they are one of the premier online identification services and they have solutions for a number of countries outside of the US but it gets very complex.

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@RandomBen: Thanks, I've used Lexis before for a few things, but never PII validation, what is their name for this service? Also, I find their APIs to be a little bloated, and not very userfriendly either -- on the other hand, they are very good at billing you... :-) – blunders Oct 20 '10 at 16:01
@blunders: I am not sure what the service name is. I was in the team that supported the code once it went live. And you are 100% correct Lexis is great at billing you! – Ben Hoffman Oct 20 '10 at 18:51

One other item to note is that you can't verify a name via credit card number either! My credit card lets me add authorized users by entering the desired name as free text, and they send it out immediately without any further verification.

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@Paul McMillan: Not following you, do you put fake names in as authorized users. If so, is that legal? – blunders Oct 21 '10 at 2:21
Some credit card companies spot check them to make sure you're not ordering a card for Barack Obama, but otherwise as long as the name on the card looks legit, they don't do any further verification. It's probably not illegal, but I'm sure your lawyer would advise against it. – Paul McMillan Oct 22 '10 at 2:30

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