How to Search OFAC's Sanctions Lists

How to Search OFAC's Sanctions Lists

892

Answer

OFAC’s Sanctions List Search application has been available to the public since 2011. Over the years the tool’s userbase grew to a point where the original infrastructure and design for the application could not keep up with demand.  In late 2020, OFAC took steps to increase the tool’s efficiency to improve its performance.  

The primary update was the addition of a new algorithm to the tool’s fuzzy logic search functionality.  The upgraded application still utilizes the original Soundex and Jaro-Winkler algorithms in addition to the new algorithm (see this link for more information on the upgrade).  As a result of this update, users may see differences in search results when compared to an earlier version of the tool.  If users had previously tested Sanctions List Search in order to determine how the tool could assist in their due diligence, it is recommended that such testing be repeated on the current version of the tool. OFAC may continue to periodically update and/or make changes to the tool.  While OFAC has no immediate plans to further upgrade the application’s fuzzy logic functionality users should watch OFAC’s website for information about future upgrades. As such, users are to advised that they are using a free service at their own risk, and that best practice dictates each user performs baseline checks to see how updates/changes to the tool may affect search results.

For more information regarding how the tool works and calculates scores, please refer to FAQs 246, 247 and 249.  For more information on who may use the tool, please see FAQ 287.

Date Released
April 28, 2021

253

Answer

Sanctions List Search’s ID field uses exact character matching to provide users with a result. In order to receive the broadest number of results, users should conduct ID field searches both with and without any non-alphanumeric characters.

Date Released
June 9, 2014

467

Answer

OFAC's Sanctions List Search is updated frequently and always contains the latest versions of OFAC's sanctions lists. Like OFAC's other list-related publications, Sanctions List Search does not contain historical information. Names that have been removed from OFAC's Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) or Consolidated Lists are not included in Sanctions List Search. Likewise, targets that have been updated only appear with their most up to date entry information. For historical information about a target on one of OFAC's sanctions lists, please see our archive page.

Date Released
April 21, 2016

287

Answer

Sanctions List Search is a free tool provided by OFAC to assist the public in complying with sanctions programs. It is intended to be used by individual users that are looking for potential matches on OFAC's sanctions lists. It should not be utilized by automated systems that are configured to continually run searches through the tool. For a copy of files that can be easily interpreted by automated systems and software programs, please see the list of XML, CSV, PIP, DEL, and FF files on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) and Consolidated Sanctions List pages.

Date Released
October 10, 2014

252

Answer

Only the name field uses the fuzzy searching logic.

Date Released
February 5, 2013

250

Answer

OFAC cannot make such a recommendation because each search has its own unique set of facts surrounding it. Users of Sanctions List Search must make their own match threshold determinations based upon their own internal risk assessments and established compliance practices.

Date Released
June 9, 2014

249

Answer

Sanctions List Search will first look for potential matches based on the first letter of  input search terms and by checking for matches at least 50% or more similar based on edit distance (edit distance is the minimum number of operations required to transform the input string of characters into the string that it is being compared to on the list). Sanctions List Search then uses two matching logic algorithms, and two matching logic techniques to calculate the score. The two algorithms are Jaro-Winkler, a string difference algorithm, and Soundex, a phonetic algorithm. The first technique involves using the Jaro-Winkler algorithm to compare the entire name string entered against full name strings of potential match entries on OFAC's sanctions lists. The second technique involves splitting the name string entered into multiple name parts (for example, John Doe would be split into two name parts). Each name part is then compared to name parts on all of OFAC's sanctions lists using the Jaro-Winkler and Soundex algorithms. The search calculates a score for each name part entered, and a composite score for all name parts entered. Sanctions List Search uses both techniques each time the search is run and returns the higher of the two scores in the Score column.

Date Released
April 28, 2021

248

Answer

The minimum name score field limits the number of names returned by the search. A value of 100 will return only names that exactly match the characters entered into the name field. A value of 50 will return all names that are deemed to be 50% similar based upon the matching logic of the search tool. By lowering the match threshold the system will return a broader result set.

Date Released
February 5, 2013