Screening Spanish Names

Every language has its own idiosyncrasies regarding personal names, we have already covered Korean and Russian names in previous articles. We now turn our attention to Spanish names.

The reasons for covering Korean and Russian names in the current geo-political climate may be more obvious than for Spanish names, but Spanish names remain a significant risk, do present challenges for screening (both for effective and efficient screening), and financial institutions have a history of getting it wrong. If we put the locations of OFAC SDN Individuals on a starting grid, it would look like this:


The SDNs located in Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico cover 27% of all individuals with a specified location on the OFAC SDN list. The majority of these are for narcotics related programs implemented as part of the “war on drugs” a battle instigated by president Nixon and still being fought today.

The exposure of Spanish names to EU and other country sanctions is more limited.

The following financial intuitions have all been fined for not screening Spanish names correctly (note these are specific failings on non-exact matching identified and published by OFAC)

The key difference in Spanish names from other personal naming conventions is the way two surnames are used formally, but only one used informally.

If we look at the Prime Ministers/Presidents of some Spanish speaking nations, we can see the difference between the formal and informal names:





Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón

Pedro Sánchez


Nicolás Maduro Moros

Nicolás Maduro


Iván Duque Márquez

Iván Duque


Juan Evo Morales Ayma

Evo Morales

Have a look at your favourite Spanish sports star on Wikipedia and you will see their full name.

The informal name contains the given name (or a shortened version) and the first of the two family names. The two family names are taken from the Paternal and Maternal family names.

A child of:


Could be:


Surnames do not normally get changed through marriage.

So some example good and bad matches would be:

Maria de Jesus GARCIA HERNANDEZ  =  María GARCIA
Yes, Maria de Jesus is often shortened to just Maria.

No, where there is a single surname it should match the paternal surname.

Maria del Carmen GARCIA HERNANDEZ  =  Carmen GARCIA
Yes, Maria del Carmen is often shortened to just Carmen.

Yes, Pepe is a common Spanish nickname for Jose.

Some other points worth noting for Spanish names are:

  • There are siz very popular surnames, which means that high level of false positives can be generated when screening in Spanish speaking countries.
  • Maria and many other common names feature diacritical marks in normal spelling, these will not be found on the OFAC list however.
  • Both surnames will be found on Spanish ID documents, and on the OFAC list, but only expect a single surname to be provided as a payments beneficiary.
  • Maria is a common boy’s name when compounded, for example – Jose Maria
  • Jesus is a common girl’s name when compounded, for example – Maria de Jesus
  • Spanish surnames can feature prefixing particles, for example the Spanish national goalkeeper – David de Gea Quintana

Note that Portuguese (and Brazilian) names do not work in the same way, in fact they work in the almost opposite way, however there are very few Portuguese personal names currently on the OFAC SDN list (although for PEPs screening …).

This has been a short article on Spanish names, but we do consider these names to be very important in screening. In our screening assessments fuzzy matches on Spanish names are our most highly weighted tests.

At SQA Consulting we can not only give you hints and tips on screening effectively and data management, we are leaders in measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of screening. Please contact us to find out more about this article, or download our brochure here.

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