A credit privacy number, or CPN, is a nine-digit ID that can be used
in lieu of a Social Security number for credit reporting and other
financial purposes, like applying for a loan. Also called a credit
profile number, a CPN is primarily used for tracking credit history or
applying for loans. You’ve probably heard of CPNs in the context of
credit repair: A company will promise to issue you a CPN that will
make it easier to qualify for new credit or get rid of bad debts. But
be careful: Sometimes, those companies are selling a service that’s
useless or even outright illegal.
So why use a CPN instead of an SSN, anyway? Like an SSN, each person can only have one CPN. It’s used as a unique identifier for your financial transactions and lets lenders and credit reporting agencies keep an eye on your borrowing history. However, a CPN can help you keep your finances safe and hidden from the public eye. For that reason, it’s popular among elected officials,
celebrities and people in witness protection programs. As the name
implies, it’s mostly used by people who need a little extra privacy.
A CPN isn’t always a substitute for an SSN, though: You can’t use it
for documents submitted to the IRS or an employer, registering a
vehicle or applying for a government loan, for instance. If you have a
CPN, it’s on you to know when you can and can’t use it.