If your Social Security number falls into the wrong hands, it can be disastrous for your credit rating. Yet consumers often find that they're required to hand the number over for identity verification purposes. Credit profile numbers, also known as credit privacy numbers or CPNs, promise to protect a consumer's credit, allowing them to achieve their goals without the risk of identity theft. But how do you get such a number? And is it the right option for you?
CPNs and Credit
CPNs have been billed as a way to get away from your credit woes. Just grab a new number and you can successfully apply for car loans, mortgages and anything else you need. Unfortunately, it doesn't really work that way. You'll likely find that most lenders refuse to accept CPNs, so you'll end up handing over your Social Security number in the end, anyway. The same goes for protecting your credit. If attempts to use your CPN are denied at every turn, you'll eventually realize it was a waste of time.
Beware of Scams
Still considering a CPN? You should probably know that the Federal Trade Commission warns that use of such a number can constitute fraud, possibly resulting in jail time. The companies promising to give you a new identity may be using stolen credit card numbers, the FTC says, which puts you in the position of unwittingly committing identity theft. Unfortunately, fixing your credit likely means putting the time and effort into paying your bills on time and getting debt under control.
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Consider Alternatives to CPNs
If protecting your Social Security number is your goal, there are alternatives to a CPN. First, you could be cautious about handing over your Social Security number, only doing so when you trust the asker. If an employer or business allows you to opt out of using your SSN for identification purposes, take that option. If you run a business or conduct freelance work, you can also apply for an employer identification number to protect your SSN. The application for a EIN on the IRS website can be completed in a matter of minutes.
Applying for a CPN
An attorney can help you complete the required paperwork to get a CPN. You can also contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) and ask for its help. The SSA will facilitate your getting a free CPN that you can use instead of your SSN to protect your privacy and help safeguard against the potential identity theft that's associated with SSNs. Although you cannot use a CPN in all situations as a replacement for your SSN, such as filing your tax return or purchasing a gun, you can use the CPN in many other instances.
Contact an Attorney
If your credit is in seriously bad shape, considering contacting a credit repair attorney who can help. In addition to getting advice on CPNs, these professionals also review your credit report and identify entries that can be contested. An experienced attorney can also negotiate with credit bureaus and creditors to have debts removed or settled. They advise against credit repair services that promise to issue a new SSN, advise you to falsify information on credit applications or require money up front before offering help.