The Credit Privacy Number (CPN) Scam

There are lots of people willing to sell you “credit privacy numbers.” A credit privacy number (or “credit profile number”) is a nine-digit number that looks like a social security number. Those selling “credit privacy numbers” or “credit profile numbers” try to convince their customers that they can use their CPNs to “repair” or obtain credit.

The rationale (repeated here, and here, and here [Cordell Davenport, you're a brave {or foolish} man to put your face on advice to commit fraud; doing so is at least a civil violation; when the feds come knocking don't say a word till you've hired me], and here, and here) is this:

Legality of CPN:
Presently, federal law allows the ability for someone to legally use a private ID # for financial reporting purposes instead of a Social Security Number.

Title 5, Section 7 of Publication Law 93-579 of Government Organization and Employees Act:
(a)(1) It shall be unlawful for any Federal, State or Local Government Agency to deny any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual’s refusal to disclose his or her Social Security Account Number.

The problem with the rationale is that a company loaning you money is not a federal, state, or local government agency, and credit is not a right, benefit, or privilege provided by law. You don’t have to give your social security number to a company that is offering credit, but they don’t have to give you credit.

If you want to find out what Social Security numbers have already been issued, you can go here and here. For example, as of June 1, 2009, the Social Security Administration was issuing numbers in the -83- group of the 215- area (the 215- area is Maryland).

Area numbers run from 001- to 772-; areas 666 and 734-749 are not used by the Social Security Administration.

Before issuing numbers in the -83- group of a particular area, the SSA exhausted all of the group numbers from -01- to -82- as well as even numbers from -84- to -98-. Within each group, serial numbers are distributed in order from 0001 to 9999; every one of those serial numbers will be used before the next group is opened up. So, for example, 215-89-9999 will follow 215-89-9998 and will be followed by 215-90-0001.

So if someone sold you “credit privacy number” 215-88-xxxx, you could tell that this was a real social security number, issued to an actual human being by the Social Security Administration Once you know that, using it in place of your own SSN will be Aggravated Identity Theft under 18 USC § 1028A.

If someone sold you the number 215-89-xxxx, though, you could tell that it was not a social security number, since it had not been issued by the SSA, but it would likely at some point be one.

Not everyone possessing or selling CPNs knows he’s selling SSNs. How SSNs are issued is arcane knowledge, and people wholesale CPNs for resale without telling their customers that the numbers are SSNs. There are many people who believe that a CPN is a legitimate device for creating a new credit file.

One company sells a CPN ebook, “CPN-ACCESS”, for $10. (Don’t buy it—I have wasted a sawbuck on it so that you don’t have to.) Essentially the ebook advises you to create a CPN that has not yet been issued as an SSN, and to use this to obtain credit (the book dances around how to use the CPN, and never says “put your CPN in the blank where they ask for your SSN”, but this is the necessary implication). It advises choosing a CPN that hasn’t been issued by the SSA (but that begins with a three-digit number under 770-, so that it is plausibly an SSN).

The problems with the e-book’s proposition are twofold.

First, when was the last time you saw a credit form asking for your CPN? “Never” is the answer. Credit companies don’t ask for CPNs; they ask for SSNs. If you are asked for a social security number and you give a CPN or a number other than your social security number, you’re lying. Lying to get credit is a crime. So you might follow the advice in the book and generate a nine-digit number that hasn’t been issued as a SSN, but still might be, and you won’t be able to do anything with it because nobody ever asks for your CPN. (This guy suggests writing “CPN ID#” after the CPN; I don’t think credit companies or U.S. Attorneys have that much of a sense of humor.)

Second, companies that give credit check to find out if an SSN was actually issued, so in order for a number to be accepted as a social security number, it has to be in the range of numbers already issued. (Those companies also search the Social Security Death Index to find out if the Social Security Number belonged to someone who has died.) If you pick a CPN that has not been issued as an SSN (or one belonging to a dead guy), and use it when filling in the blanks on a credit application, the credit company’s computer will kick it out as an error. Because it isn’t a social security number, it won’t pass the creditors’ vetting. Using it in place of a Social Security Number to try to get something of value would still be fraud, though.

As an alternative to making up your own CPN from the pool of possible future SSNs, the ebook suggests applying for an EIN and using that as a CPN. I haven’t given a lot of thought to the legality of this, but, first, credit applications don’t ask for your EIN (so putting an EIN where an SSN is requested is a lie); and, second, any advice that includes:

[F]ill in an address that you have never had any ties to with your current credit and no other address for mail then continue . . . .
Just remember not to give any type of identifying info. from your other credit file.  Make sure to use the address that you were never associated with prior to the creation of your CPN.

has got to be looked at with an extremely cynical eye. If the anonymous authors of the ebook aren’t violating 15 USC 1679b, it’s only because of their disclaimer:

The information provided in this E-book is not intended to be considered legal advice in any way.  This is simply to show you HOW companies are obtaining Credit Privacy Number or Credit Profile Number.  In no way do we encourage anyone to use the following information.

If you wanted to generate a Social Security number other than your own (and you do not want to do this—there is no legal use to which you could put such a number), it’d be easy: pick one of the three-digit area numbers the SSA uses, pick a two-digit group that has already been exhausted, and pick a non-zero four-digit number. Presto: you’ve got someone else’s bona fide social security number. If you wanted to make sure that this fake Social Security Number didn’t belong to someone who had died or who had a bad credit history, you might choose a two-digit group that was recently exhausted to be sure that the number was recently issued. This is what I have seen the originators of “CPNs” doing: picking recently-issued SSNs to sell to people in dire credit circumstances. These numbers generally turn out to belong to children, which makes those who trade in or use the CPNs look really bad.

The $10 ebook (which, again, you should not buy) advocates using 292-61-xxxx as your CPN, and checking it at ssnvalidator.com to make sure that it is not already an SSN. Ssnvalidator.com will tell us not only if a number has been issued, but also if the number is in the SSA death index (so if you made up an SSN using the method in the last paragraph, you could check ssnvalidator.com to see if the number was in the death index). We know that the SSA is only up to group 13 in area 292-, so even without looking it up at ssnvalidator.com we know that it will be a while (370,000+ SSNs in that area, which is part of Ohio) before SSNs are created beginning 292-61-.

Bottom line: CPNs fit into the same category as redemption theory: nutjob theories that greedy people who know better use to take advantage of desperate people who don’t.

[Yes, I know I'm going to get a bunch of comments from people who believe in CPNs only because they yearn to.]

About Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett got his letter of marque from the Supreme Court of Texas in May 1995. He is famous for having no sense of humor when it comes to totalitarianism.
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21 Responses to The Credit Privacy Number (CPN) Scam

  1. Feisty says:

    Using an EIN as opposed to a SSN to obtain credit for personal (as opposed to business) purposes is most certainly illegal under federal law.

  2. Joe says:

    How is this even possible? I know people are willing to go to great lengths to protect their identity information, but this scenario is just a mess waiting to happen. Let’s hope this idea loses traction before anyone else hears about it.

    • Mark Bennett says:

      As long as there are suckers who’ll pay $10 to be told how to get out of debt, there’ll be people taking their $10 to give them an illegal way of doing it.

  3. Michael says:

    How does this work for sole-proprietorships? I have an EIN for my home business (not incorporated), but I always use my personal name and my EIN is registered to my personal name as well.

    How can this be fraud?

  4. Abdul Hafiz says:

    Credit card application are not supposed to ask for your “private” social security number for any of their products. Social Security Numbers issued by the Social Security Administration are only supposed to be used for benefits related to the Social Security Administration, period. The banks have swayed people to use their SS# to establish credit accounts. CPN numbers are legitimate. As stated above
    Title 5, Sec­tion 7 of Pub­li­ca­tion Law 93–579 of Gov­ern­ment Orga­ni­za­tion and Employ­ees Act:
    (a)(1) It shall be unlaw­ful for any Fed­eral, State or Local Gov­ern­ment Agency to deny any indi­vid­ual any right, ben­e­fit, or priv­i­lege pro­vided by law because of such individual’s refusal to dis­close his or her Social Secu­rity Account Number.
    Credit cards issued by banks deal with “real money” issued by the Treasury Department, thus the unsecured “loans” Americans inherit when using credit cards are essentially Federally insured funds being borrowed. Credit cards are not issued by tax payers or insured by angel investors. They are a products issued by FDIC protected banks. To require that a citizen provide his Social Security Administration to gain access to Federal dollars referred to as credit cards is a violation of Title 5, Sec­tion 7 of Pub­li­ca­tion Law 93–579 of Gov­ern­ment Orga­ni­za­tion and Employ­ees Act.

    • Mark Bennett says:

      Nonsense. Credit-card companies are not “federal, state or local government agencies.” So credit-card companies can ask for your social security number. Even if they couldn’t, you wouldn’t be justified in fraudulently giving some made-up number where the credit-card company was asking for a social security number. You could leave the space blank, and see if they loan you the money. Maybe they will; if they don’t, and you think they’re violating PL 93-579 (they aren’t, because they aren’t a “federal, state or local government agency,”) file a lawsuit.

      • shg says:

        But, but, but, the flag?!? It has fringes. It’s a martime court, see EDITH!!!

        You certainly get your share of interesting people here.

      • Mark Bennett says:

        That’s because of my wanton disregard for Rule One.

  5. gene says:

    Who care banks and credit card companies have been ripping us for years. Its a chileds ssn. So what by the time they are an adult it wont even shaow on their credit. Wtf how are we defending banks smh

  6. darin says:

    There are offers being made for validated scn’s. they claim they pass the ssnvalidator as well as various other programs verifying them as ssn#s. Can you please explain how that is done?

    • Mark Bennett says:

      I have explained it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.

  7. darin says:

    Hi, am new here. Just got home from offshore where I had no laptop/cell phone to go on line. I get home and see that I signed up for this, great! Not to be off topic now but I do have a question about this CPN stuff. There are sites selling “validated cpns” that show as issued ssns when checked out, or so they claim. How can this be done? They tell you to check the numbers they issue you on the ssn validator and say they pass all the other checks. This can be tempting to people looking for a second chance. I don’t question the legalities here, that is obvious. Just curious as to how they can have a number validated. I’ve checked into this cpn stuff years ago and never invested due to skepticism. As a victim of identity theft and having no help in resolving it, I can understand people being desperate, although most are just looking for new credit because they wrecked theirs on their own. Just wanted to see if anyone knew how they can issue a number and have it validated as an ssn, unless of course they are selling you an actual ssn from someone else. They all offer both AU credit lines and Primary lines that they assign to the number once they issue it to you. I would appreciate anyone shedding light on this for me. Thanks, Darin.

    • Mark Bennett says:

      Read the post. All is explained. (tl;dr: They are selling you an actual SSN from someone else.)

  8. Christian says:

    Mark which government agency you’re working? for why are you defending the banks they sure as hell are not fighting for the consumer. I have no respect for you are your post its people like you who try to force feed your OPINIONS tell the truth for once never mind you’re a lawyer its your job to lie.

    This next segment was taken directly off of the FBI.gov website:

    Credit Privacy Numbers (CPNs) are nine-digit file numbers that follow the same algorithm as Social Security Account Numbers (SSANs). Currently, federal law allows individuals to legally use CPNs for financial reporting and protects those individuals who do not wish to disclose their SSAN. Individuals who acquire CPNs are completely responsible for any debt they incur using this number.


    [This is the end of the FBI quote. The commenter included a great deal of other text from here, which was not "taken directly off of the FBI.gov website."

    The poster also did not include the final sentence of the quoted paragraph, which you can find in footnote 35 of the FBI's 2008 Mortgage Fraud Report:

    Acquiring a CPN is supposed to be a free service; therefore, Web sites that offer CPNs for a fee are most likely scammers.

    I have found nothing in federal law that supports the FBI's statement that "Currently, federal law allows individuals to legally use CPNs for financial reporting and protects those individuals who do not wish to disclose their SSAN." The phrases "credit privacy number" and "credit profile number" do not appear in either the Code of Federal Regulations or the U.S. Code. So I think the FBI is wrong (wouldn't be the first time) on this broad proposition.

    Even if the FBI were correct, however, it would not support the commenter's (and the CPN-fraud industry's) contention that it's okay to buy a CPN to use in place of an SSN. Web sites that offer CPNs for a fee are most likely scammers. MB]

  9. I was the credit profile number site (I put it in the website field before I commented) earlier which actually made me search the net more to find out more on this topic and brought me here. I don’t know what to believe at this point, because absolutely no one can cite a law saying that we cannot use them, or that we can definitely use them. It seems to be one of those grey areas of the law, or is it more of a civil issue? I’m pretty much just confused about the whole process. My grand daughter is planning on getting her first car and I wanted her to keep from using her social because I know how those car lots can be, but it looks like she’ll be using her real ssn anyway. Some people say you can use it if you tell them you’re using a cpn, and some people say you just can’t use it at all. You can’t miss what you never had, so she’ll be fine without one.

  10. Cherry Fox says:

    I had been reselling Shelf corps and CPN’s for 3 + years. I have seen the truths, the lies and the disappointments. I have been slandered to even have faced jail time. You do NOT want to get involved with CPN’s unless you absolutely know what you’re doing. 4 years after this thread was started, CPN’s are still being sold. Now its even fancier with Authorized Users.
    If you’re not sure if a CPN is right for you, this is how you know.

    1. Are you planning on defrauding creditors with this number?

    If yes, Kill yourself and know this is not for you.
    If no, move on to the next question.

    2. Are you intelligent to know how to keep the file segregated? File Segregation is a hot legal topic. Bottom line, it is supposed to be illegal. But one thing is certain in this day and age. Ignorance, will get you out of the stickiest situations. “I’m sorry your honor, I didn’t know I could not do that.”, got me out of a 2 year prison sentence…and it was the truth.
    I didn’t know. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH! In this day and age, everyone lies to protect themselves, the banks and, the churches. Including lawyers.

    • Mark Bennett says:

      I just love all the visitors to this post who find it necessary to suggest that I’m lying. It’s like being invited into my house and taking a crap on the rug in the foyer.

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