Everyone makes mistakes. But when the mistake involves money, sometimes those mistakes can have consequences far beyond what we imagined when we first made the mistake. If financial mistakes you made are haunting you in the form of a bad credit score, it’s tempting to want to start again with a clean slate. Hopefully, you’ve learned to make better choices, and so the idea of starting again with a new identification number that will free you from your past seems like a good idea.
The term that sellers have given this number is Credit Privacy Number or a CPN. That name makes it sound legitimate, and even like you’ll be protecting your privacy by using this number. What it actually is, though, is a scam.
What is a Credit Privacy Number?
A credit privacy number, or CPN, is also sometimes called a Credit Protection Number or a Credit Profile Number. A CPN may be touted as a way to start over with a fresh credit profile, or a way to easily and quickly increase your credit score.
These numbers are in the same 9-digit format as Social Security Numbers and Federal Employer Identification Numbers. A CPN may be sold, possibly for thousands of dollars, to an unsuspecting consumer who is just trying to recover from the financial mistakes of their past.
Where do these numbers come from?
Credit privacy numbers are often stolen Social Security Numbers. These numbers could be stolen from people who don’t keep a close eye on their credit report, so they can be used for years before anybody catches on to the fact that they are stolen.
Who are these numbers stolen from? They are often stolen from children, the elderly, or those who have been incarcerated for a long period. It’s identity theft, and it harms the most vulnerable among us.
A “credit repair agency” may offer to give you one of these numbers to help you repair your credit – for a price. These can cost anywhere from hundreds to several thousands of dollars. Users of a CPN could be asked to change their billing address or make other changes to avoid sending a red flag to credit agencies.
What could happen if I use a credit privacy number?
You can end up in serious trouble if you choose to use a credit privacy number. It’s a federal crime to lie on an application for credit or for a loan, to misrepresent your Social Security Number, or to get an Employer Identification Number by lying about the reasons you need it.
Besides repercussions you may find yourself facing, CPNs often victimize others as well. It can take months or years for victims to deal with getting the illegitimate items off of their credit report, and it can affect them when they’re trying to buy their first car or start over after being released from prison. Even the elderly aren’t immune; they could be hit by a tax bill from a job that they never worked at or find their Social Security benefits in jeopardy because of “earnings” assigned to their Social Security Number.
What about Employer Identification Numbers?
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a number assigned to a business. They use this number to identify themselves with the IRS, pay payroll taxes, and open bank accounts. This number helps the owner(s) keep their business and personal financial lives separate.
Those who sell CPNs sometimes use EINs instead of an existing SSN, or may encourage you to apply for an EIN for use as a CPN. However, using an EIN for the wrong purposes is fraud.
How can I rebuild my credit without a credit privacy number?
Rebuilding credit can take a long time, but doing it the right way will save you from legal issues which could take even longer to clear up. Keep in mind that most items will fall off your credit report after seven years, but even a few months of wise decisions can start to improve your credit score.
Here are a few suggestions from the Federal Trade Commission on the best ways to rebuild your credit.
- Work to remove inaccurate information by sending letters to to the business that provided the information, and to the credit bureau reporting the incorrect information
- Pay your bills by the due date
- Pay off debt, especially credit card debt
- Don’t take out any new debt
While these methods may take a bit longer than starting over with a clean slate, you’ll have the benefit of knowing you’re on the right side of the law. Your increasing credit score will be something you worked hard for, and you won’t have to worry about hurting anyone else’s credit history in the process.