What Is a Credit Privacy Number (CPN)?

Credit

Credit privacy numbers (CPNs) are promoted by some credit repair companies as an effective way of eradicating your bad credit history. Rather than using your Social Security number on a credit or loan application, you can supposedly use a CPN number to get approved.

But, is that really the case? Let’s take a look.

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What Is a CPN?

CPN typically refers to a credit privacy number. However, it’s also sometimes called a credit protection number, or credit profile number. It’s a nine-digit number that is advertised as a substitute for your Social Security Number (SSN).

If you are concerned about your privacy or want to start over with your credit, a CPN might seem like a viable solution. However, you need to be very cautious of anyone trying to sell you a CPN. Keep reading to find out why.

Where do CPN numbers come from?

First, it’s important to know that all SSNs are issued by The Social Security Administration Office. Likewise, all EINs are issued by the IRS. Neither of these organizations issue CPNs. In fact, no government entity will issue such a thing as a credit protection number.

Some sellers of CPNs will claim to have attorneys who can request a CPN number application on your behalf. But again, no reputable and legal entity will issue CPNs.

The truth is there are only two possible sources from which a ‘CPN’ can be obtained. Both of these methods are strictly illegal.

From Stolen or Inactive Genuine Social Security Numbers

In this case, real SSNs are often stolen from vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and deceased or incarcerated people. Scammers will target these groups since they are more likely to have relatively inactive accounts, or be less likely to notice fraudulent behavior.

If any company or individual offers to sell you a CPN that guarantees are particular credit score, this is a strong indication that the CPN is actually an existing SSN that has been stolen.

From Newly Generated Fake Social Security Numbers

Scammers can also create fake SSNs that have not yet been issued by the government. This is done by using algorithms to generate 9-digit numbers. These numbers are then run against databases to find out which numbers could pose as SSNs.

These fake SSNs are then sold as CPNs. If a company offers the chance to clear or restart your credit with a CPN, then you’re almost certainly being sold a fake Social Security Number.

How to Obtain a CPN Number

Government entities do not recognize CPNs as a substitute for Social Security numbers, so there is no legitimate way to obtain one. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, they don’t even exist.

While certain companies claim that CPNs are federal government-issued numbers, they’re either completely made up or stolen Social Security numbers. So, the only way to get a CPN is by purchasing a stolen or fake Social Security number.

It could likely be that the CPN you pay for actually belongs to a child, senior citizen, or prisoner. This could lead to severe repercussions if you decide to carry forward and use a CPN in place of your Social Security number.

Using a CPN is not legal, and using one can have serious consequences. So, how has this rumor persisted into our public consciousness?

The myth of CPNs starts with less-than-reputable companies offering individuals the chance to start a new credit file. A CPN can cost anywhere from $40 to $3,500.

Unfortunately, there is nothing legitimate about CPNs. We’ll tell you exactly what you need to know, so you can avoid being duped into paying for a clean slate that doesn’t exist.

Can you go to jail for using a credit privacy number?

Yes, federal law prohibits the use of credit privacy numbers on credit applications. You can be sentenced to jail for doing so. In fact, this kind of fraud is a federal crime. It can land you up to 30 years in prison plus hefty fees and fines.

Using a CPN may seem like a great way to avoid dealing with a poor credit score, but it’s little more than a scam.

Can you get a loan with a credit privacy number?

Absolutely not. The only number you should enter on a personal credit card or loan application is your SSN.

The reason is quite serious: using a false Social Security number on credit applications is lying. So, those are potentially two separate charges if you get caught using a credit privacy number instead of your Social Security number.

You also might receive a separate sentence at the state level for using a CPN. This would potentially add more prison time and fines. If you’re dealing with the repercussions of a bad credit score, then you already have enough problems.

Luckily, you can solve them over time. When you’re convicted of a crime, on the other hand, you’re in a completely different world of trouble. So don’t risk it. Use your own Social Security number each time you apply for credit, and in the meantime, work on repairing your credit score honestly.

How to Avoid CPN Scams

No reputable credit repair companies offer credit privacy numbers because they’re simply not legal. But in case things seem murky, here are a few other signals that it’s time to run as fast you can and find another place to help.

No one should ever advocate lying about your credit history. Additionally, they shouldn’t request payment for services before they’ve been completed. False promises should also cause a red flag to go up. Promises that you won’t have to deal with your past credit history if you move forward with them are lies.

Finally, no one can guarantee that you’ll be approved for credit, no matter how good your credit is. If the company makes that promise to you, then there’s a fair chance they’re attempting to scam you.

These tips aren’t meant to scare you out of working with a credit repair company. In fact, many of them do a spectacular job of helping people fix their poor credit. But it’s still wise to ask questions and be informed to not get suckered into a bad situation.

Can a CPN help protect against identity theft?

One of the potential merits of using a CPN is that it’s supposed to offer a new credit identity. Unfortunately, that’s simply not an option for us today.

Your Social Security number carries along with it lots of personal identifying information like your address and purchase history. The more you use it, the more likely it is to be stolen, which can lead to serious problems.

An identity thief could file false tax returns under your name or even try to claim benefits on your behalf. So, it’s not surprising that even those without bad credit could be attracted to using a CPN in place of their SSN.

The Social Security Administration Office can help you get a new social security number if you were a victim of identity theft.

Better Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

Even without using a CPN, there are several ways to prevent identity theft. First, you should check your credit report from all three credit bureaus every year. That way, you’ll notice if any new accounts have been opened under your name without your authorization.

You can also place a freeze on your credit report, so that creditors can’t pull your financial information until you’ve listed the freeze. This prevents someone from applying for credit under your name but can’t get approved without a full credit check.

Consider doing this if you’ve been impacted by a recent data breach by a major company or website, such as Target or Anthem.

Can I use my EIN instead of SSN when applying for credit?

Self-employed individuals typically obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to file business taxes. It’s basically like an SSN for business owners. Unfortunately, EINs can only be used for tax reporting purposes, not for credit card, car loan, or personal loan applications.

Even when using your EIN for business credit purposes, lenders usually evaluate your credit application based on your personal credit scores.

Credit Card Piggybacking

Some people also attempt to circumvent credit checks by getting added as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card. This is called credit card piggybacking. While this is legal, there are risks associated with this move.

If you rack up credit card debt and fail to make the payments, your friend or relative who is the original cardholder will be saddled with your debt. If neither of you makes the payments, their credit score will suffer just as much as yours does.

There’s also a risk of having your credit history ruined if the primary cardholder doesn’t make their payments. This is because both your credit reports and credit scores become inextricably linked when you share a credit card.

When one of you makes consistent payments each month, both of your credit scores will rise. But if either one of you overspends or lets the account fall into delinquency, you’ll both equally suffer the financial consequences.

What is the right way to improve your credit score?

Repairing your credit is much smarter than lying on loan applications with a false Social Security number. If you have bad credit, there are probably a few items on your credit report that are worth disputing.

You can attempt to do this yourself by contacting the three major credit bureaus, credit card companies, and other creditors. It just involves negotiating settlements and disputing negative items on your credit report. But an alternative option is to work with a reputable credit repair service.

What to Do Instead of Getting a CPN

A lot of people may be misled into thinking that a CPN is a legitimate way to improve a poor credit standing. But there are several legal and effective methods that you can implement that will improve your credit score over time.

Improve Your Credit With On-Time Payments

Your payment history is the factor that carries the biggest weight on your FICO credit score. The most effective way of improving bad credit is to focus on paying off debts, and making future payments on time.

This will also help you to avoid late fees and penalties, saving you both money and stress.

If making your payments on time isn’t possible, you can always seek to alter the terms of your loan, or temporarily reduce or defer payments. Avoid skipping payments at all costs.

Lower Your Credit Utilization Ratio

Your credit utilization ratio is the second biggest factor influencing your credit score. As such, if you need to improve your credit score you should do your very best to lower the percentage of available credit you’re using. Ideally, you can keep your credit utilization below 30%. In other words, try not to use more than 30% of your credit limit at any time.

Remove Errors From Your Credit Report

Another useful tip that can help clean your credit up is to search for and remove errors in your credit report. This is a free and relatively straightforward process, but if you don’t want to do it yourself you can also seek professional assistance.

If there are errors on your credit report, having them cleared could bring a boost to your credit scores.

Professional Help

The best credit repair companies won’t give you shady offers like a credit privacy number. Instead, they’ll look strategically at each item on your credit file to see what can be fixed.

Credit repair services can help you deal with negative items on your credit report. These items include charge-offs, collections, late payments, repossessions, and more.

They understand consumer law and work diligently on your behalf to ensure the creditor or collection agency is acting legally. Rather than committing a federal crime with a CPN, you can repair your credit with time-tested strategies that use the law in your favor.

Lauren Ward
Meet the author

Lauren is a Crediful writer whose aim is to give readers the financial tools they need to reach their own goals in life. She has written on personal finance issues for over six years and holds a Bachelor's degree in Japanese from Georgetown University.