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A credit privacy number (CPN) is a nine-digit number you can use instead of a social security number. Credit privacy numbers are sometimes called credit profile numbers, and consumers can use a CPN on a loan application or for credit reporting purposes. The CPN takes the place of a social security number in cases where a consumer wants some extra protection for their social security number.
Why Would You Want a CPN?
Like a social security number, a person can only have one CPN. The CPN can be used for tracking credit history or applying for loans. It is a way to track your credit without using your social security number, so many people use a CPN to protect the privacy of their social security number. Financial media outlets reporting on CPN numbers claim that celebrities and diplomats use a CPN in lieu of a social security number in order to protect their identity in financial transactions.
There is not much evidence, however, that this is the case. In addition, you cannot use a credit profile number or credit privacy number on any document that is reported to the government. That means you cannot use a CPN on tax documents, employment documents, vehicle registrations, or government loan applications.
Privacy or Fraud?
Credit privacy numbers may have a place in protecting a person’s identity. Your Social Security number is an important component of your financial identity, and it makes sense to protect that. Legally, any U.S. citizen has the right to request a credit privacy number. Lenders, however, are not required to accept them on loan applications or any other financial document. Furthermore, using a CPN on an application that specifically asks for a Social Security number is considered a form of fraud.
The cases in which a person can legally use their CPN in place of their Social Security number are relatively limited. In addition, there are questions about where these numbers are actually coming from and how they are issued. Both the Social Security Administration and Federal Trade Commission report that neither department oversees CPNs. Furthermore, neither department could definitively establish if credit profile numbers are even legal and legitimate.
Findings such as these should make you question whether you need a CPN unless you are a federal government official or in the witness protection program. Credit repair companies, however, claim they can help consumers fix their bad credit history with the help of a new credit profile number.
These companies claim that issuing you a credit profile number will make it easier for you to qualify for new credit and erase bad debts. However, a valid CPN would refer back to your individual credit history and not change that at all. Unfortunately, the only way to actually fix your bad credit history is to replace it over time with responsible credit behaviors.
If the Social Security Administration and Federal Trade Commission are not issuing or managing these credit privacy numbers, where do they come from and how are credit repair companies getting them? Fraudulent providers of credit privacy numbers may just be stealing Social Security numbers from children or the elderly. So, if anyone offers to sell you a CPN, ask a lot of questions about why they think you need the number and where they are obtaining it.
Author: Jeff Gitlen