What Is a Credit Privacy Number?
A credit privacy number (CPN) is a fraudulent alternative to a Social Security number (SSN). Sometimes people use them to hide their credit history, but they’re illegal. Avoid shady credit repair companies that advertise them as a solution for bad credit.
Why people use CPNs
If you have a rocky credit history, you probably want to repair your credit. While there are legitimate credit repair companies, some advertise quick fixes like a credit privacy number. Using an alternative “privacy” number instead of your real Social Security number when applying for credit seems too good to be true — and you might hope the lender won’t find your real credit report.
People with bad credit histories might use a CPN to get better interest rates or loan terms or qualify for credit in the first place. Repairing your credit takes time and work, so a CPN may seem like a shortcut.
Using a CPN number to avoid disclosing your poor credit history may seem tempting, but it’s a bad idea. It’s unethical and illegal.
Why CPNs are illegal
Shortsighted attempts to get around a bad credit history will backfire. Using a CPN in place of your SSN is a federal crime. Some unethical credit repair services will unfortunately recommend using a CPN on credit applications. Sometimes identity thieves steal real SSNs — often from children or other vulnerable people — and sell those numbers as CPNs. They can also be called credit profile numbers or credit protection numbers.
You cannot use inaccurate information on loan applications without serious legal risk. If you’re applying for a mortgage and a lender asks for your SSN (which is standard practice), you have to provide the accurate number. You can’t misrepresent your name, address or birthday, either. Intentional deception like that is fraud, especially on important financial documents.
What’s the difference between an SSN and a CPN?
SSNs and CPN numbers are hyphenated nine-digit numbers. The government assigns you a Social Security number when you’re born if you’re an American citizen. If you reside in the United States and intend to apply for work authorization, you can apply for an SSN. Credit privacy numbers, on the other hand, are sold by shady companies to hide your true credit identity. While it seems like a CPN could be an alternative to an SSN, it’s not legal.
How to avoid credit repair scams
There are a lot of predatory credit repair scams out there, so it’s important to verify that you’re working with a legitimate organization to repair your credit. Credit repair companies must abide by the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA). If a company engages in one of these rule violations, you shouldn’t work with it:
- Taking payment from a consumer before completing what was promised.
- Asking or suggesting that you mislead companies about your credit history.
- Making deceptive or false claims about the services the company is offering.
- Forcing you to sign a waiver that states you’re forfeiting CROA rights.
It’s a major red flag if a credit repair company advocates using a CPN instead of your SSN. Other signs you may be working with a scammer include when a company guarantees results, claims you need a new identity or fails to explain your legal rights.
How to rebuild your credit score without a CPN
It’s possible to repair your credit yourself. Fixing bad credit can be difficult, but you can improve your credit score over time by following these steps:
Pay all your bills on time
Making regular payments on credit cards, loans or a mortgage is the most important thing you can do to build good credit. If you’ve missed payments in the past, it will have hurt your credit score, but if you start making all of your payments on time, your credit score will eventually recover.
Don’t use too much credit
Taking out too many credit accounts within a short time or using a high percentage of your available credit line will drag down your score. Instead, open accounts sparingly to avoid the impact of multiple hard credit checks, and try to keep your credit utilization ratio under 30%.
Dispute credit report errors
You should occasionally review your credit report to see if there is any inaccurate information that could hurt your score. If there is, disputing those records with credit bureaus may be the best way to improve your credit score quickly — as long as the errors get fixed.
Wait for negative events to fall off
It may feel impossible to escape the impact of late payments and other financial mistakes, but they don’t stick around forever. Most negative credit events disappear from your report after seven years, though some bankruptcies stay on your report for 10 years.
It’s important to monitor your credit score, even if you aren’t planning on taking out any new loans soon.