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How do I Open an Anonymous Bank Account?

By John Lister
Updated May 16, 2024
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Whether it is even possible to have an anonymous bank account depends on the definition of anonymous. It is possible to have private accounts where details are kept secretive, though they may be revealed under legally compelling requests. In the United States, it is not possible to have a literally anonymous account, as the law requires financial institutions to be aware of the identity of account holders.

In the past, a truly anonymous bank account was available in some countries, including Switzerland and Austria. These could be opened with no identification and the holder was simply given a booklet and a codeword. These were needed for all transactions, meaning the account could only be accessed in person.

Because of the set-up, local banking laws held that anyone who had possession of the booklet and knew the codeword was considered the legal holder of the account. This naturally increased the security risks associated with such accounts. In particular, it meant that if an account holder died and did not leave details of his codeword, the heirs would be unable to access the funds in the account.

Running an anonymous bank account is difficult if not impossible in the 21st century. This is largely a result of the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body that attempts to combat money laundering. The force has established a widespread legal principle that banks must know the identity of account holders.

The United States has had such a legal requirement since passing the Bank Secrecy Act in 1970. The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 requires that banks check the identity of account holders against a list of people known or suspected to be involved in, or have links to, terrorist activities.

The closest thing to an anonymous bank account today involves setting up an offshore company. This company can then open a bank account in the overseas country, adding an extra layer of secrecy between the account and the true holder. This can be an extremely expensive method and may be limited by local laws in the country where the company and account are based.

There are several organizations, mainly operating online, that claim to be able to offer a truly anonymous bank account. These are usually risky at best and a scam at worst. The most common method is for the organization to set up an account with a bank and then give their customer the code numbers and passwords to access it online. This is extremely dangerous as it means that even though the customer has access, they are not the legal account holder. That means that at any time, the organization could quite legitimately withdraw all the money in the account and close it down.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon351195 — On Oct 11, 2013

@ GenevaMech: It sounds like you live in a nice, comfy place with security. There are many areas in the world where corrupt, high ranking officials conspire to investigate which of their citizens have access to money in offshore accounts and then participate in having either that particular person or a member of their family kidnapped in order to ask for high ransoms. This is just one instance where an anonymous bank account would come in handy without signifying criminal activity on your part.

By anon322543 — On Feb 28, 2013

@GenevaMech: In a supposed 'free' society, the burden of proof lies with those who wish to restrict liberty, not make use of it. Therefore, the question you pose is illegitimate.

By anon284762 — On Aug 11, 2012

Exactly right GenevaMec!

And I am sure since you don't have drugs or illegal weapons in your home, you won't mind the police coming in for a check once in a while. Just in case. Given that it is the same exact principal.

By anon249818 — On Feb 22, 2012

As always, bank-sters or gangsters, made this world worse.

Why there were anonymous accounts? For safety reasons. If the bank employer can see your sign, all data, balance, checks, etc., then they can try to steal your hard earned money.

On numbered accounts, in many cases, the account holder was the only person who knew the balance. Only when the account holder arrived at the bank (today even the internet may give people an opportunity to exclude people from this) someone might see how much money was withdrawn. But the employer had no way to get more money from the account. The account holder had the codes.

Today some bank employees are thieves. They can even open credit accounts because they see all of your data.

By anon235498 — On Dec 17, 2011

Living in the over litigious United States, I would say that a secret account would be a good way to protect hard earned cash from some ambulance chasing lawyer.

By PelesTears — On May 30, 2011

@GenevaMech- The only legit reason I could think of would be if someone wanted to open an account for a charitable trust that they wanted to add money to periodically. I am not sure if this is even possible or feasible, but it is the only scenario I could think of that would give the person opening an anonymous Swiss bank account the benefit of the doubt.

By Alchemy — On May 30, 2011

@genevamech- I have a Swiss bank account, but it is simply because my grandmother lives in Switzerland. Having the account makes it easier to transfer money to help pay for my schooling.

Before I opened my Swiss account, I had a huge transaction lost through an international wire transfer with the United States biggest bank. It took me months to get my money back, and I had to have another wire sent in its place until the bank was able to find my funds. I now use my now use my Swiss account to pay for my tuition because they have branches right here in the United States. This is not a reason for someone to need an anonymous bank account, but it is a reason to have an international account.

By GenevaMech — On May 28, 2011

I think it is a good idea that all banks now require proof of identity to open a bank account. I see no purpose in opening an anonymous bank account unless the person opening the account was up to no good. If anyone can give me a legitimate reason to have an anonymous bank account that no possible connection could be made to I would love to hear it. I have no problem with someone who opens an offshore bank account, but if he or she were within the law, then there would be no need to conceal his or her identity.

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