If you want to buy a house or car or qualify for a specific credit card, you'll need a good credit score. Unfortunately, to get a good credit score, you'll need access to credit so that you can prove that you are reliable when it comes to on-time payments. Credit repair services often recommend credit profile numbers, better known as CPNs, promoting them as a way to wipe the slate clean by getting an alternative to a Social Security number. Unfortunately, these numbers are ineffective at best and legally questionable at worst.
What Is a CPN?
Social Security numbers are heavily used during the credit application process and the more you give out that number, the more open you are to fraud. One data breach can expose your Social Security number to fraudsters who can then use it to commit identity fraud.
A credit profile number is marketed as an alternative that not only gives you a fresh start but also helps protect your originally issued identification number. Usually, those marketing this information are selling their services, packaging the CPN as part of the deal, so they make a living convincing you to believe in them.
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How CPNs (Don’t) Work
Consumers are drawn to CPNs because they're told that all they need is this new number to get credit. Credit cleanup services will have you believe, in other words, that when you give your CPN to a mortgage lender, the lender solely uses that number to pull reports from the three major credit-reporting agencies.
If only it worked that way. When filling out a loan application, though, you give far more information than a Social Security number, and all that information is entered into the system and used to pull your credit. The three credit bureaus state that they only accept valid Social Security numbers, so any alternative would not work for the purpose of checking credit, making it a wasted effort.
How About EINs?
Although you may be concerned about the legality of CPNs, in truth, the agencies offering them are the ones that get most of the wrath. But depending on your reason for seeking out an alternative Social Security number, you may be able to apply for an employer identification number (EIN), which is usually required for businesses that pay wages to one or more employees, or file pension or excise tax returns. However, state laws can vary regarding requirements.
Even if you are not required to have an EIN, it's often a good idea to get one anyway. If, for instance, you do freelance work on the side, having an EIN is a way to protect yourself. With an EIN, you can separate your personal identification number from your business one. This means that if you're a victim of identity theft, your business will remain untouched.
Seeking Legal Advice
It's important to note that lenders will still expect your individual Social Security number when applying for personal credit. Instead of investing in a credit repair service, consider consulting a well-reviewed credit repair attorney. For an hourly fee, a legal representative can contest items on your credit report and negotiate with creditors, all to clean up your credit. When combined with paying bills on time, you can improve your credit score much more quickly than you could without an attorney.