What Is a Credit Privacy Number?

Definition and Examples of a Credit Privacy Number

Man using credit card online

domoyega / Getty Images

A credit privacy number, also known as a credit profile number or CPN, is a nine-digit ID number that some companies fraudulently claim can be used in place of a Social Security number. They're marketed as an alternative to Social Security numbers that offer more privacy, which can be tempting for consumers who want to hide their poor credit history. However, CPNs are not a legitimate way of obtaining credit or restoring credit scores.

Here's why it's best to steer clear of these numbers, despite the alluring promises made by companies that market these products.

What Is a Credit Privacy Number?

A credit privacy number is formatted just like a Social Security number, and it's meant to be used in place of one on applications that involve a credit check. They're marketed as a way to avoid letting your bad credit history affect you. However, credit privacy numbers are recognized by the Federal Trade Commission as a scam.

  • Alternate names: Credit protection number, credit profile number
  • Acronym: CPN

Fraudulent credit repair companies attempt to sell CPNs to consumers, claiming that even people with bad credit can use these to get loans, credit cards, and other financial products that they otherwise wouldn’t qualify for. Despite the promises made by these companies, CPNs won't help you improve your credit, and they could even get you in trouble with the law.

If you attempt to use a CPN in place of your Social Security number to apply for credit, you could be charged with misrepresenting your Social Security number, which is a federal crime.

How Does a Credit Privacy Number Work?

Those who do buy a CPN will receive a number that looks like a Social Security number. This may, in fact, be a Social Security number—one that was stolen by the company from a child, senior, or prison inmate, for example. Under the guise of "protecting your privacy," the company may ask you to use a strange email address or phone number whenever you use the CPN. This should raise another red flag that you could be unwittingly participating in identity fraud.

If you use a stolen Social Security number to apply for credit, you're committing identity theft, even if you don’t realize you're using someone else's number.

Avoiding CPN Scams

Use caution when dealing with a company that offers a “new credit identity.” That just doesn’t exist. While there is a limited set of circumstances under which you can get a new Social Security number, those situations are extremely rare and the process for actually getting a new number is arduous.

A variation of the CPN scam involves getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN). EINs are legitimate—they're used by businesses for tax reasons—but they can't be used as a substitute for your Social Security number, so obtaining one won't repair your credit.

Lastly, exercise extreme caution anytime you're being asked to pay for anything related to your Social Security number or EIN. Both of these numbers are provided for free. If someone charges you as you try to obtain one, that's a sign that you need to carefully research the entity offering the service.

Alternatives to Credit Privacy Numbers

Unfortunately, there is no legal way to get a blank slate for your credit. However, it is possible to repair your credit; you just need patience and discipline.

Most of the information on your credit history is not permanent, and eventually, credit agencies will remove it from your credit profile. Most negative marks will be removed from your Equifax account after seven years, for example, though some types of bankruptcies may stay on your report for up to 10 years. The more time that goes by, the more negative information is erased from your credit report. The credit repair process can be expedited if you can simultaneously add positive information to your credit report, such as by making timely payments, keeping your balances low, and not opening too many new accounts.

While Equifax removes most negative information from your credit report after seven years, it will keep the positive information on your credit report for 10 years.

Federal law also gives consumers the right to only have accurate information reported about them. If inaccurate information has ended up on your credit report you can (and should) dispute it to get it removed. There are legitimate credit repair companies that can dispute this on your behalf, but you can also dispute it yourself for free. Many credit repair companies also dabble in "quick fix" promises that go beyond the realistic options that a consumer has to repair their credit.

If you're considering credit repair, understand your rights. Among other protections, the Credit Repair Organizations Act makes it illegal for a credit repair company to charge you before they have done their job.

If you are in extreme debt, and you don't think you can dig your way out of it, you might want to consider debt settlement, debt management, or even bankruptcy. Bankruptcy will hurt your credit score, but it may free you from enough debt to help you improve your score in the long-run.

Key Takeaways

  • Credit privacy numbers, or CPNs, are nine-digit numbers that are fraudulently marketed as alternatives to Social Security numbers.
  • CPNs are usually marketed to consumers with bad credit who have issues qualifying for loans, credit cards, and other forms of credit.
  • The Federal Trade Commission considers CPNs scams, and they often unwittingly involve consumers in identity theft.