A credit privacy number (CPN) is a fraudulent number that adheres to the same 9-digit format of a Social Security number. Criminals committing bank fraud use CPNs to apply for credit under a modified identity. Credit privacy numbers are not legal or issued in any form by the federal government and using a CPN to apply for credit is fraud.
What are CPNs used for?
A fraudulent credit privacy number is used in place of a Social Security number when applying for credit. Scammers sell people credit privacy numbers as a way for them to set up a second line of credit or a way to reset their credit scores. CPNs promise a way to open up new lines of credit without being held back by older, lower credit scores. This is why CPNs may be tempting to some people, despite being illegal.
Unfortunately, the credit privacy number scam works off loopholes in both the Social Security Administration and Credit Bureau reporting agencies’ databases. A fictitious Social Security number gets past some lenders due to a lack of screening to see if the name matches the number.
How CPNs are Created
Credit privacy numbers are described by scammers as a second version of a Social Security number that adds additional security. Scammers promise these numbers are created though the Social Security Administration, however this is not true. Credit privacy numbers are created using two different forms of fraud: synthetic identity fraud and identity theft.
Synthetic Identity Fraud
Synthetic identity fraud is the leading form of credit card fraud in America and accounts for 80 percent of credit card losses. Credit privacy numbers created with synthetic identity fraud use an an algorithm to create 9-digit Social Security numbers. These numbers are then cross-checked using an illegal online validator to determine if the number will pass as a valid Social Security number. Credit privacy numbers created through synthetic identity fraud often use Social Security numbers yet to be issued in the United States.
Identity theft is also used to create some credit privacy numbers that have a validated lending history or a pre-set credit score. These credit privacy numbers are created using stolen Social Security numbers of the elderly, children or the incarcerated. The Social Security numbers of this demographic are more often used for identity theft as they are less likely to notice the theft. Credit privacy numbers that promise a set credit score or lending history are often stolen Social Security numbers.
Are CPNs Illegal?
Credit privacy numbers originated from the legal gray area of the Privacy Act of 1974. This act gave individuals the right to withhold their Social Security numbers when not required by other federal laws. Although this law was created to protect Americans’ privacy, this law does not make credit privacy number legal. Using a fictitious credit privacy number counts as identity theft and can end in large penalties and jail time.
Synthetic ID fraud, including credit privacy number fraud, accounts for 80 percent of credit card fraud today. Luckily credit lenders are becoming more skilled at spotting these numbers, however it is not stopping some Americans from falling into this scam.
How to Avoid Credit Privacy Number Scams
A legal credit privacy number does not exist. Any website, business or salesperson who is promising a legitimate credit privacy number is likely committing fraudulent practices. As the FBI continues to work on shutting down credit privacy number scams you will still need to avoid some key signs of a CPN scammer.
Scam red flags:
- Requires a change of address
- Requires a change of phone number
- Requires a new email address
- Promises a new credit score
- Insists on payment upfront
- Discourages credit agency comminication
Changing anything about your current identity is a clear sign the scammer is helping you commit fraud. Scammers may state that changing certain aspects about an identity will add additional security, however they are suggesting changes in order to fit into a new identity.
Reporting Credit Privacy Number Scams
Since many forms of identity fraud are hard to crack down on, any reporting goes a long way for these types of crimes. If you run into a credit privacy number scam there are some forms of action you can take to report the scammer.
The offices of your State’s Attorney General handle many of the investigations into businesses practicing in illegal scams including credit privacy numbers. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission has a business complaint center where you can provide any information about your exchange with the scammer.
The right way to repair your credit
Instead of turning to illegal credit repair scams to apply for new credit, there are many avenues you can approach to legally repair your credit. Our guide on how to raise your credit score focuses on high impact, sustainable ways to increase your score. Additionally, there are other ways you can take that might help you raise your credit score including credit repair services that help you work to remove the negative entries on your credit report.