Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit bureaus, announced on Oct. 1 that a review conducted by an outside firm it hired suggests that as many as 145.5 million files may have been comprised. That’s 2.5 million more than it had originally estimated several weeks ago. From mid-May through July, Equifax says, the hacker or hackers had access to all of the information needed to steal identities. That includes Social Security numbers, birth dates, home addresses and (in some cases) driver’s license and credit card numbers. You need credit security!
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. 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.