Some credit repair companies tout credit privacy numbers (CPNs) as a helpful way to disassociate yourself from your bad credit history and start fresh.
Rather than using your Social Security number (SSN) as your identifier on a credit or loan application, you can supposedly use a nine-digit CPN to get approved.
Are CPN numbers legal?
Using a CPN (sometimes also called a credit profile number or credit protection number) is not legal. According to the Federal Trade Commission, they don’t even exist.
No federal agency recognizes them as a replacement for an individual’s Social Security number, and using one can come with 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 buy a new number. So how much does a credit privacy number cost? CPNs cost anywhere between $40 and $3,500.
Unfortunately, there is nothing legitimate about CPNs. Read on to find out 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, using a credit privacy number on credit applications is a violation of federal law, and you can go 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.
While certain companies claim that CPNs are government-issued numbers, they’re probably either completely made up or stolen Social Security numbers.
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.
Can you get a loan with a credit privacy number?
Absolutely not. When you’re filling out a credit card or loan application and are asked for your SSN, that is the only number you should enter on the form.
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, potentially adding 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. So, the more you use it, the more chances there are that it can be stolen, and it can be a massive headache if that happens.
An identity thief could file false tax returns under your name or even claim any benefits you might be eligible for. So, it makes sense that many people, even those without bad credit, could be attracted to using a CPN in place of their SSN.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, and need a new social security number, you will need to go through the Social Security Administration Office.
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.
This is especially smart to do if you’ve been part of one of the many ongoing data breaches of major companies and websites like Target or Anthem.
Can I use my EIN instead of SSN when applying for credit?
Self-employed individuals typically get an employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to help identify their business taxes. It’s basically like an SSN for business owners. Unfortunately, an EIN can only be used for tax reporting purposes and can’t be used on credit applications for a credit card, car loan, or personal loan.
Even when using your EIN for business credit purposes, the lender will still look at your personal credit scores and take that information into account when evaluating your credit application.
Some people also attempt to circumvent credit checks by getting added as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card. The risk of this move, however, runs in two directions.
The first is that if you charge up a lot of money and fail to make the payments, then 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.
Even if you are an upstanding credit card user, there’s also the risk of having your credit history ruined if the main card user 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 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?
When your credit score is bad enough that you’re tempted to use false Social Security numbers on new applications, you probably have at least a few items on your credit report that are worth disputing.
You can certainly 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.
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.
They know the ins and outs of the law and work diligently on your behalf while making sure the creditor or collection agency is acting lawfully. Rather than committing a federal crime with a CPN, try to repair your credit with time-tested strategies that use the law in your favor.