Dun-da-da DUNS!

A DUNS (or D-U-N-S®) Number is a unique nine-digit identifier for businesses.  Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. (“D&B”) created the Data Universal Numbering System, or DUNS Number, in 1962 as a way to identify business entities on a location-specific basis.  It is a proprietary system that is maintained solely by D&B including a registered trademark for D-U-N-S for “assigning and supplying identification numbers for use by business enterprises for the purpose of facilitating the automation of the payment of accounts payable and the obtaining of business statistics and information” and some other business information services.  D&B assigns DUNS numbers for each physical location of a business.

Because the number is unique to a single business location, it makes it easy to identify and track a business.  Therefore, many other organizations, including Apple and Wal-Mart, require companies they work with to obtain a DUNS number. In addition, the federal government requires grant applicants to obtain a DUNS number.  The DUNS number was also incorporated into the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) in 1998 as the federal government’s contractor identification code for all procurement-related activities. The federal government then uses the DUNS number to track how federal money is allocated.

Your company may have a DUNS number because you requested one, or sometimes D&B assigns a DUNS number if your company is doing business and D&B “finds” you.  For example, you may be providing services to a company that reports certain actions to D&B.  That means your first step should be looking to see if your company already has one.

If your company doesn’t have one and you want one, you head to the site and fill out the form.  You will need all of the information listed below to obtain a DUNS number:

  • Name of organization
  • Organization address
  • Name of the chief executive officer (CEO) or organization owner
  • Legal structure of the organization (e.g., corporation, partnership, proprietorship)
  • Year the organization started
  • Primary type of business
  • Total number of employees (full and part-time)

According to D&B, registering for a DUNS number is free of charge, so if you encounter any organizations or websites that solicits a fee or charge to acquire a DUNS number, it is likely a scam or fraudulent.  Of course, since nothing is free, when obtaining a DUNS number, D&B places your company on their marketing list that is sold to other companies. In addition, they are happy to sell you additional services.

P.S.  The Dun-da-da-dun song is Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.