Wouldn’t it be great to be able to leave bad credit behind and start over with a clean slate? Getting financing for a house or car would be so much easier if you could just pay to restart your credit history. That’s what companies that sell credit privacy numbers offer — a new credit identity. If that sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is.
CPNs are illegal and those who use them can face heavy consequences. So, what is a CPN, and how can you protect yourself from CPN scams?
- CPN stands for credit profile number, credit protection number or credit privacy number.
- CPNs are stolen or randomly generated Social Security numbers offered by fake credit repair companies.
- Victims of CPN scams are instructed to use a CPN instead of their Social Security number when applying for credit.
- Using a CPN is illegal and could result in fines and jail time.
- Never work with credit repair companies that sell CPNs, threaten you with consequences or ask you to falsify information.
What Is a CPN?
A CPN, also called a credit profile number, credit protection number or credit privacy number, is a nine-digit number that fake credit repair companies sell. These illegitimate companies instruct their victims to use CPNs in place of their Social Security number when applying for credit cards or loans.
These numbers are either randomly generated — or worse, they may be stolen Social Security numbers, usually from children. These companies may also tell their victims to apply for an individual taxpayer identification number from the IRS or fill out applications using false information.
Is Having a CPN Illegal?
Using a CPN is illegal. If you use one, that is committing fraud. If you use one that is actually a stolen Social Security number, then that is committing fraud and identity theft — even if you don’t know who it was stolen from.
What Happens If You Use a CPN?
If you are caught using a CPN, you could face a hefty fine and even jail time. Not getting caught at the time of the application doesn’t mean you’ve gotten away with it.
Identity theft is a federal crime. Depending on the state, the statute of limitations — the amount of time after a crime that someone can be punished for committing it — for identity theft could be anywhere from three years to forever. That means by using a CPN once, you could be opening yourself to prosecution indefinitely.
How To Avoid CPN and Other Credit Repair Scams
If you are at the point in your debt journey that you are considering working with a credit repair company, learn how to protect yourself from scams. Consider it a red flag if the entity you’re contemplating working with does any of the following:
- Insists You Pay Upfront: You may be asked to sign a contract or provide partial payment before a company starts doing work, but if you are asked for large amounts of money before any work is done, find another company.
- Threatens You With Potential Consequences: Making someone scared is a classic way to manipulate people. Don’t let a scammer scare you out of your money. If they start to get to you, contact a lawyer.
- Doesn’t Explain Your Rights: Legitimate credit repair companies will explain your rights to you pretty quickly in the onboarding process. This protects the company as much as it protects you.
- Asks You To Falsify Information: These companies may ask you to dispute things on your credit report, even if you know they are accurate. They may also recommend that you provide false contact information on your credit or loan applications, which is illegal.
Tips To Raise Your Credit Score Without Using a CPN
If you’re not far enough along to need debt negotiation but still need to raise your credit score, here are some tips.
- Pay Bills on Time: Make sure you are paying at least the minimum on any debt you owe. If you cannot afford even the minimum, you can reach out to a credit negotiation service.
- Deal With Collections Accounts: Focus on bringing any delinquent or collections accounts up to date so they stop hurting your credit. If you make a payment plan, you can ask to have a remark removed from your credit report.
- Put Extra Money Toward Debt: If you have extra money, putting it toward debt will reduce your interest and, in turn, the total amount you pay over time.
- Get Credit for Bills: With Experian Boost, Experian will raise your credit by looking at utility bills, rent and other bill payments. It’s usually a very small increase. On average, users’ FICO scores have improved by 13 points as a result of a boost, according to data from Experian.
- Wait: This tip can be the hardest, but it’s also the most guaranteed to work when combined with any other. Negative remarks will fall off your report and the age of your credit history will grow as long as you have at least one account open.
Don’t fall for credit score myths or scams. It took time to get a bad credit score, and it will take time to repair it. Nothing is worth committing fraud, knowingly or unknowingly.
- How do I get a CPN legally?
- There are no legitimate or legal CPNs. All of the ads for CPNs are from scammers hoping to take your money and leave you with the responsibility for the crime.
- What can you legally use a CPN for?
- All CPNs are illegal, and using one is a federal crime. Using a CPN could cost you significantly in fines as well as jail time.
- However, there are companies that will help you repair your credit legally. If you need assistance, options you can consider range from consulting and money coaches to help with bad habits to legal firms that handle debt negotiation.
- How much does a CPN cost?
- Scam credit repair companies might charge thousands of dollars for a CPN. Even if they charge something closer to $50, remember that CPNs are never legal, so no amount is worth it.
- Can I change my Social Security number to reset my credit?
- No, you cannot get a new Social Security number to start your credit over on a blank slate. There are a limited number of reasons for which you might be approved for a change of Social Security number, but your credit score will not reset.
Chris Ozarowski contributed to the reporting for this article.
Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.
- National Conference of State Legislatures. "Identity Theft."