DEFINITION of 'Account Number'

An account number is the primary identifier for ownership of an account, whether a vendor account, a checking or brokerage account, or a loan account. An account number is used whether or not the identifier uses letters or numbers.

BREAKING DOWN 'Account Number'

At one time, it was common to use a Social Security number (SSN) as the primary identifier, particularly for employees (for payroll or human-resources identification). Because of the proliferation of identity theft, however, this practice has been all but eradicated. It is not a good idea to use a Social Security number for any type of account, or as a user name or password for electronic identification.

Account Number Encryption and New Methods of Cybersecurity

As online threats are on the rise a new breed of cybersecurity is also growing quickly. Means of encrypting and making it difficult for hackers to steal account numbers are taking the form of password managers, along with multi-factor authentication systems. Password managers will often utilize a hard-to-hack master password, which unlocks a vault of a user’s account numbers and other sensitive data; while multi-factor authentication often requires the use of another step (e.g. a fingerprint, voice activation, or time-sensitive code sent to a user’s cellphone, among others) to open an account -- in addition to a password. These are just some of the means of protecting users’ account numbers in an increasingly vulnerable online environment.

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