What is a Credit Privacy Number (CPN)?

Credit privacy numbers are meant to protect sensitive information like your social security number, but the process for getting one isn’t as legitimate as you might expect. With plenty of legalities surrounding how you can get one and what it can be used for, there’s also quite a lot of grey area that scammers and illegitimate companies use to get you to pay for a CPN.

What exactly is a credit privacy number? Is it really a scam? Can it be used for good? We answer these questions, along with a few more, below.     

What is a Credit Privacy Number?

Also known as a credit profile number or secondary credit number (SCN), a credit privacy number can be used instead of a social security number in some situations.  

How do you get a Credit Privacy Number?

To get a credit privacy number, you must go through the IRS. However, it’s not as simple as filling out a form, paying a fee, and getting a CPN. 

CPNs are rarely awarded by the IRS. The applicant has to show a legitimate need for one, which is why certain websites that claim you need a lawyer to get one are actually right for once. A vast majority of people who try to successfully navigate themselves towards getting a legal CPN will fail. 

How much does a Credit Privacy Number cost?

Nothing. When it is needed, there is no fee for obtaining a CPN.

Companies that charge you for CPNs are basically selling you a fake product. Either the numbers are made up, are actually an employee identification number (EIN), or they are stolen (most often from children or the deceased). 

Who uses Credit Privacy Numbers?

Credit Profile Numbers are often used by celebrities such as Hollywood actors and politicians. However, they are also used by everyday people who have been the victims of identity theft or are under a witness protection program. 

The common thread is that CPNs are awarded on a case by case basis.

It boils down to security. If your security is at risk, has been compromised and will likely continue to be, a CPN may be awarded to you. However, even if you are at risk, there is no guarantee the IRS will reward you with a credit profile number.

In fact, all indications point to CPNs as a leak that was never supposed to be public knowledge. 

Does a Credit Privacy Number help your credit score?

Many online CPN companies state that with a CPN, you get a new credit profile with a new credit ranking.

This is a lie. 

A legal CPN is still connected to your personal information. This is because the three credit bureaus do not have separate credit reports for CPNs. If you, by some chance, are able to get a legal CPN, it is not a fresh start. Any negative entries you have on your report that are lowering your credit score will still be there. Any money you owe you will continue to still owe.

Illegal CPNs, on the other hand, may do this for you, but if you use an illegal CPN you’re committing fraud and will likely face jail time.

Why do people get in trouble using CPNs bought online?

People get in trouble when they try to create an entirely new life for themselves. If you have debt before you get a CPN, you’re still responsible for it afterward. 

With CPNs, some people have tried to take out new debt and never make any payments to the lender. If you were to do this, it would be no different than putting on a fake mustache and robbing a bank. Even though you’re still using your name, it’s no different from identity theft.

You are committing fraud by providing false information about yourself. 

Consider this:

A CPN company online tells its customers to knowingly give the following information when getting a CPN and requesting a loan:

  • A new email address (not affiliated with any email address ever used)
  • A new phone number (not affiliated with any number either you or your family members have ever used)
  • A new address (not affiliated with any place you or your family members have ever lived)

Does that sound legal to you? Knowingly providing false information to get money?

How can you protect yourself without a CPN?

You may want a CPN to help secure your identity. You can do that by knowing your rights. 

Part of the reason identity theft has become so commonplace is that so many companies are requesting social security numbers these days for identity verification. But every time there is a data breach, your information is potentially lost and posted on the dark web. 

Your social security number was never intended to be used the way it is now used.  

Know your rights and know about the Privacy Act of 1974. This act says you have the legal right to keep your social security number private from agencies that are not legally entitled to it. The only agencies that have an absolute right to your SSN are the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration. 

Additional steps you can take include:

  • Signing up for a VPN: VPN-encrypt your IP address as well as any data you send over the internet. It’s a must if you ever use public WiFi.
  • Mixing up your passwords: Don’t use the same password for all of your accounts. It’s like giving hackers the key to the city.
  • Writing your passwords down: Don’t store your passwords on your computer. Always write them down and store them in a private place. If Google asks you if you want it to store them, say no.
  • Using an identity protection service: Get notified any time there is an unusual activity with your accounts. The sooner you can report identity theft, the easier it is to get it removed from your records.

When are you required to provide your real social security number?

You are legally required to give your social security number for the following scenarios:

  • When you are communicating or filing paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service
  • After you’ve accepted a job offer and are filling out a W-4 form with your employer
  • When you are registering any type of motor vehicle at the DMV
  • When you are applying for child support
  • When you are buying and registering any type of firearm
  • When you are applying for any type of loan or credit
  • When you are paying supplemental security income taxes (SSI)
  • When you are applying for Decision Support System (DSS), also known as Social Security

When are you not required to provide your social security number?

The following scenarios do not require you to submit your social security number:

  • Job applications. Employers like to have it before they’ve hired you so they can run a background check. However, not supplying your social security number should not hurt your chances of getting the job. An exception may include if you’re working in a sensitive environment such as caring for children or handling a company’s financials. 
  • Doctor’s Office. The doctor’s office may refuse to do business with you if you withhold your social security number, but they don’t have a legal right to ask for your social security number. The only reason they request it is so they can send your information to collections should you not pay upon a bill. 
  • Travel Agency. Travel agencies only need a valid form of payment. No travel agency should ever require your SSN. Valid forms of ID are only required at check-in.
  • School. You cannot be denied attendance at a public school for not supplying your SSN. Unless you are applying for any type of government assistance, you do not have to supply your social security number.
  • Government Benefits. Government agencies must state if you are required by law to submit your SSN. If it is not stated on the form, you do not have to provide it. You can still receive government benefits without providing a SSN. You can thank the Privacy Act of 1974 for this.
  • Anyone requesting it over the phone. Never, under any circumstances, provide your social security number to someone over the phone. Tell them you will provide other information, but you will not verify your social security number, last four digits or otherwise. 

How do you improve your credit without a CPN?

Just as there isn’t a pill you can take to lose 30 pounds overnight, there also isn’t a magic bullet to fix your credit score. To improve your credit score you have to do it the old fashioned way. This means you should:

  • Pay your bills on time
  • Pay off your current debt
  • Avoid new debt
  • Keep what credit cards you have open
  • Not open new credit cards unless you must
  • Dispute any inaccuracies on your credit reports

Do all of this and wait. Over time your score will improve. 

Will CPNs remain legal?

They never really existed the way people thought they did. In fact, the FTC has come out firmly against anyone claiming otherwise. Unfortunately, many websites selling CPNs can still be found. Why they haven’t been shut down yet, is anyone’s guess.