What is a Credit Privacy Number (CPN)

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Definition:

A credit privacy number (CPN) is marketed to people with low credit scores as a supposed replacement for a Social Security number — It’s illegal and often part of credit repair scams.

🤔 Understanding Credit Privacy Numbers (CPNs)

Scammers present credit privacy numbers (CPNs), sometimes called credit profile numbers, as an alternative to Social Security numbers. Some credit repair companies promise that CPNs can give those with poor credit histories a fresh start, while others market them as a way to protect one’s privacy and identity. While these selling points can seem tempting, it’s illegal to use a CPN. Misrepresenting your Social Security number on loan or credit applications is considered fraud and a federal crime. Many CPNs are stolen Social Security numbers, including those of children, so using one can also implicate you in identity theft.

Example

Imagine that Sally has had a rough couple of years financially. She lost her job and went into credit card debt to make ends meet. Sally is working on rebuilding her credit, but for now her financial past prevents her from getting a credit card or loan. Sally learns about credit privacy numbers and thinks they might be a way out.

She wants to use a CPN on her credit applications so that creditors won’t learn about her financial history. Unfortunately for Sally, CPNs are a scam, and she could be breaking federal law by using them.

Takeaway

A credit privacy number is like a Halloween costume…

When you’re wearing a good costume, your mask and outfit conceal your real identity, and no one knows who you really are. Similarly, a CPN purports to mask your identity and credit history. Unfortunately, you can’t use your CPN in the real world any more than you can change your real identity by wearing a costume. And trying to do so could result in fines or jail time.

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What is the purpose of a credit privacy number?

The idea that you could replace your Social Security number might sound appealing.

A low credit score can hold you back from qualifying for new credit or good interest rates. Poor credit can even keep you from landing a job or apartment in some cases. The possibility of buying a credit privacy number (CPN) to use in place of your Social Security number can sound like a fresh start.

Others might want to shield their Social Security numbers to protect themselves from identity theft. Many applications for loans, credit cards, jobs, and apartments ask for your Social Security number. It may sound tempting to use a CPN instead to avoid having your Social Security number end up in the wrong hands.

Unfortunately, CPNs are too good to be true.

Are credit privacy numbers legal?

So-called credit repair companies may promise you a fresh start with a credit privacy number in exchange for a fee. They may tell you this process is perfectly legal, but it’s not.

If you use a CPN on a credit card application instead of your Social Security number, you may be committing a crime. Federal law prohibits people from lying on a credit or loan application or misrepresenting their Social Security number.

What makes matters worse is that CPNS are often stolen Social Security numbers, including those of children or dead people. That means you could become involved in identity theft by using a CPN. Doing so could constitute fraud, which could lead to fines or land you in prison.

Are there alternatives to CPNs?

You may have valid reasons for wanting a credit privacy number. While using a CPN is against federal law, alternatives exist that can help you protect your identity or overcome a poor credit history:

Getting a new Social Security number

In select cases, the Social Security Administration (SSA) might issue someone a new Social Security number:

  • If members of the same family have sequential Social Security numbers and this is causing problems
  • If more than one person has or is using the same Social Security number
  • If someone has been the victim of identity theft, and this continues to cause problems
  • If someone is the victim of harassment or abuse, or someone’s life is in danger
  • If someone has religious or cultural objections to particular digits in their Social Security number (the SSA will require documentation from the religious group).

If any of these situations apply to you, you can visit an SSA office to apply for a new number. You will need to provide credible, external evidence to back up your case.

Unfortunately, getting out from under past financial problems is not one of the reasons you can get a new Social Security number.

Improving your credit

If you’re struggling to qualify for credit or loans because of a rocky credit history, it’s understandable that you would be looking for alternatives. There’s no easy way to erase your past, but there are plenty of ways you can take control of the situation and repair your credit history.

First, make sure you pay all your bills on time. Your payment history is one of the most critical factors on your credit report, and missing even one payment can have a negative impact. The longer you make your payments on schedule, the more your credit score will increase.

Your credit utilization ratio is another major factor in determining your credit score. This ratio is the percentage of available credit that you are using. The lower your credit utilization score, the better. One way to increase your credit score may be to pay off some debt to lower that ratio.

Check your credit reports regularly to make sure all the information in them is correct. You can order a free report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If anything looks amiss, you can dispute the error.

Improving your credit takes time. The longer you go without negative marks on your credit report, the more your score will increase. Even major events like bankruptcies and foreclosures won’t stay on your credit report forever.

Protecting yourself from identity theft

Some people are interested in a CPN because they think it will help them avoid becoming victims of identity theft. While a CPN is not a legal option, there are other ways you can protect yourself.

One way is to avoid responding to suspicious phone calls, letters, or emails that ask for your Social Security number or other personal information. These requests may even come from the email address of someone you know if an email account is hacked.

Finally, a number of credit and identity-theft monitoring services offer to keep an eye on your credit and let you know if anything suspicious occurs using your Social Security number.

These services will flag new accounts, hard credit inquiries, public records, and more. If any activity occurs, they’ll alert you in case the activity was fraudulent. Some companies offer this as a paid service, while others offer free credit monitoring.

If you aren’t using a credit monitoring service, you can be on the lookout for identity theft yourself. Signs that someone has stolen your identity include withdrawals from your bank account, debt collectors contacting you about debt you didn’t take on, and unfamiliar accounts on your credit report.

How can you avoid a CPM scam?

If you’re seeking help repairing your credit, many companies promise to help. To avoid scammers, look out for these red flags:

  • Any company that tells you it’s legal to use a CPN in place of your Social Security number is lying. Not only is it illegal to misrepresent your Social Security number, but the number they’re trying to sell you may belong to someone else.
  • Be wary of companies that tell you to use an Employer Identification Number (EIN) in place of your Social Security number. EINs are identification numbers that businesses use to report information to the government. It’s not a replacement for your Social Security Number, and it’s illegal to obtain an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service under false pretenses.
  • “Credit repair” companies that tell you to pay up front, not to contact credit reporting bureaus, not to dispute incorrect information on your credit report, or to lie on credit or loan applications are likely fraudsters. Also watch out for companies that don’t explain your legal rights when describing their services. Under the Credit Repair Organization Act, credit repair companies are required to be honest about what they can do for you, including explaining your legal rights and how much you’ll pay in total. If a company violates this law, you can sue them for money you lost and punitive damages.

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