Science & Tech

A man changed his name to fool IT systems, and now claims he gets stuff for free

A man changed his name to fool IT systems, and now claims he gets stuff for free

Jonathan David is a Computer Engineering and Theoretical Physics graduate - and he reckons he's just saved himself over £10,000.

Last year David changed his name to 'Raven Felix Null' - and since many IT systems can’t register 'Null' as a name, he's finding he can bypass paying for things like hotel bills and car rentals.

The BBC recently wrote an article about people who encounter technical problems related to their name, but Raven chose to change his to see if he could get free stuff when computer systems refuse to register his name.

Seems completely ludicrous, right? But according to Raven, it's working - for some things, at least.

indy100 caught up with Raven to ask a few questions about the idea.

Specifically, in which places has this loop-hole worked for you?

All the hotels were in either Spokane, Washington or Tampa, Florida [same for the car rentals].

Have there been companies that this hasn’t worked? What did you do if they refused you?

Yes, there are plenty of places that can handle 'Null' as a last name just fine and it causes no problems. I pay as normal.

How much have you managed to save by using your new name? What’s been the best deal you got with it?

I have probably managed to save somewhere around $15,000 (£10,500).

The best deal I got was not having to pay for my root canal which would have cost around $1,500.

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Aren’t you worried about all the attention your story has been getting?

I didn't expect this to blow up the way it did. I just made a post to Reddit one afternoon and didn't think much of it. About an hour later it was still in the single digits of up votes so I didn't really expect it to go anywhere.

It does cause more trouble in day to day life than I think it's worth. Being able to use my name to get free stuff is great and all but sometimes I could do without the stress it brings.

So just how believable is Null's story? IT expert Graham Dilloway spoke to indy100, who seemed a little dubious:

Within a computer, all of the bits (the ones and zeroes) are either data or not data. There is a subset of data that are 'indicators'. As an indicator, 'Null' usually means 'unknown'.

In most cases, I would expect a programme to know the difference between the data value 'Null' and the indicator 'Null'. For example, most programmes would treat the data 'Null' in the same way as the data 'Smith'. So I might enter my name as 'Null' in a form. A programme might say... if name not Null... print name. This programme should print the name as 'Null'.

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