Credit Privacy Number: Don’t Get Caught Up in a Credit Scam

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Contributor at Fundera
Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.
Rieva Lesonsky

Should you be using a credit privacy number? Before you decide, you need to know as much as possible about CDNs as they could make a big difference on your credit applications, from credit cards to business loan application. Let’s look into why you might want one and ask yourself if these reasons would be worth the potential risk they pose.

Credit Privacy Numbers: Are They Real?

Here’s the thing—CPNs are more often than not a scam, according to the Federal Trade Commission. They’re a way for people with bad credit to pay for the opportunity to “start fresh” with a whole new credit identity. Entities selling CPNs are often selling dormant Social Security Numbers of children, or are asking customers to change their address, license, and phone number. Pretty scary stuff, huh?

So, before diving more into CPNs, know that they are not legitimate or recognized by the government, and are often associated with scam.

Why Would You Want to Use a Credit Privacy Number?

A quick online search will uncover many offers for free credit privacy numbers and just as many for CPNs that cost money. Companies offering credit privacy numbers boast two big selling points.

Nonetheless, despite these supposed pros of getting a CPN, credit privacy numbers end up still being a hindrance in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to getting actual credit for yourself. As we mentioned above, this could be everything from getting an auto loan to getting a business loan.

So, in theory, why would you want something like a private credit number?

CPNs protect your Social Security number.

People who are worried about identity theft and dislike the idea of sharing their Social Security number with anyone might get a CPN thinking they can use it as identification instead of their SSN.

In reality, however, if a lender asks for your SSN, they aren’t going to be satisfied with your credit privacy number—it’s not legitimate or accepted by the government. Think about it: You’re asking a bank to lend you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, trusting that you will pay it back, but you don’t trust them enough to share your SSN? A Social Security Number is just a way for banks and lenders to verify that you are who you say you are. A CPN keeping that private would not be accepted by lenders who need to make sure that they’re lending to the right profile.

It can help you clean up your credit history.

CPNs are often promoted as part of a plan to improve your credit, or a fresh start when you have bad credit. When you do an online search for “credit privacy number,” lots of credit repair programs pop up. By using the CPN, these companies claim, you can apply for credit cards, lines of credit, or loans, and the companies involved will never find out that you have bad credit.

However, it’s pretty obvious rather than improving your credit history, the credit privacy number is intended to hide it. And common sense will tell you that as long as the CPN is connected with you—your name, address, and other identifying information—it’s a simple matter for credit sources to uncover your credit score, no matter which ID number you use.

If anything, using a credit privacy number will make them more suspicious of your creditworthiness. Though it’s a difficult reality to face, that’s why you should focus on fixing your score instead. (More on that later).

Be Wary of Shady Sources

So, again, what is a CPN? Say it with us: when it comes down to it, CPNs are often more a scam than they are a credit solution.

You might not be shocked, as it is a product that’s often pitched as a way to cover up bad credit. No matter which way you look at it, though, CPNs are pretty iffy. In fact, a CardHub investigation of CPNs reports that criminals often use them specifically to conduct fraudulent activity. Yikes.

Even worse, to reiterate, many credit privacy numbers are actually stolen or inactive Social Security numbers, such as those “from children or deceased individuals” an FBI spokesperson told CardHub.

What would happen if you put your CPN on a loan application and it turned out to be a stolen SSN? Aside from the guilt you’d feel at unwittingly being party to stealing a dead person or child’s identity, this can get you in a whole lot of hot water. You could end up being investigated—or even prosecuted for criminal activity. Not the least of it: you certainly won’t get your loan.

However, that’s a small matter when you consider that your business’s reputation, along with your own, could be destroyed.

Are all credit privacy numbers stolen SSNs? Not necessarily. However, since CardHub’s investigation found that neither the Social Security Administration, the FBI, nor the Federal Trade Commission issues, controls, or tracks CPNs—and none would give a definitive answer as to whether the numbers are actually legal or not—the whole process sounds highly suspicious. Plus, would you really want to get one, knowing that you run the risk of it being stolen?

credit privacy number

How to Avoid CPN Scams

While CPNs sound appealing, you don’t want to get mixed up in a legal case by participating. But there are enticing advertisements all over the place offering credit repair. How can you know what’s real, and avoid scam credit repair?

  • Avoid anyone offering an alternative to a Social Security Number. There really is no substitute for a Social Security Number. As a business owner, you might be asked to use a business tax id number (or EIN), which is a legitimate identification for businesses. However, even EINs are no replacement for SSNs, and CPNs are no replacement for EINs.
  • Avoid any deal offering a clean slate credit identity. There is no legal such thing.
  • It’s illegal for credit repair agencies to charge you before any work has been actually done. So if you come across a service that’s going to charge you upfront, be wary of the legality of the company. Check out the Credit Repair Organization Act that protects individuals in these scenarios so you know what’s legal and what’s not.

If you are seriously evaluating a CDN, do as much research as possible. Try to get references. Dig for reviews. This is a decision you want to thoroughly vet.

If you’re having second thoughts, consider why you’re evaluating a CDN. If it is to protect your identity, try following best practices for keeping your identity safe first. If you’re trying to clean up your credit, there is actually a lot you can be doing to get this number up starting today.

How to Improve Bad Credit

CPNs are not a solution to bad credit. And while you might wish a silver bullet fix to struggling credit existed, there really isn’t anything out there that can skyrocket your credit overnight.

Great credit comes from dedication to good borrowing practices.

If you’re looking to improve your credit, avoid the CPNs and try incorporating the following best practices:

  • Pay your credit bills on time, every time. If you have a credit card or a line of credit, showing that you’re responsible with what you borrow every month is a great step towards building your credit. This is the one thing that will influence your credit most.
  • Keep your credit utilization low. Borrowers who take on high balances each month are more correlated with risky behavior that leads to bad credit. Try to utilize only 30% or less of the credit available to you. This means that if you have a $10,000 credit limit on a credit card, only borrow up to $3,000 at any given time. If you need to spend a lot of money on your credit cards for your business, try increasing you’re overall available credit to help with your utilization. You can call your current credit card provider and see if they’re willing to up your credit limit.
  • Don’t close out old accounts. Credit history is something that is factored into your score. If you have old credit accounts you no longer use, don’t close them. Let them sit and just don’t use them. Yes, the credit provider might eventually close them out, but it is better that they do it and not you.

If you have bad credit, trying to hide behind a credit privacy number is not the answer. Taking steps to repair and improve your credit isn’t fast, but it’s the only long-term solution to help you get the credit score you want and the financing you need. As is with most things in life, there is no overnight way to achieve this. It’s disciplined behavior overtime that will get you there.

Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone. They haven’t been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the companies mentioned above. Learn more about our editorial process and how we make money here.
Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Contributor at Fundera
Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.
Rieva Lesonsky

Our Picks