The Credit Privacy Number (CPN) Scam

 Posted on June 14, 2009 in Uncategorized

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 ยง 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 to make sure that it is not already an SSN. 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 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 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.]

[I've closed comments. I'm no longer interested in people who believe in CPNs, unless they want to hire me.]


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