NEW YORK (MainStreet) — There's a dangerous new scam making the rounds, preying on people with bad credit. It's called a credit privacy number and it promises to wipe your credit slate clean. But not only will it not help you to purge your credit history, it may also have you facing serious criminal charges.
What Is a Credit Privacy Number?
Put simply, a credit privacy number is a nine-digit number designed to replace your Social Security number when applying for credit. It might not sound totally kosher, and indeed, it's not.
"It's a strange, dark world," says Mike Sullivan, director of education with Take Charge America, a nonprofit credit counseling agency. "The law says that for the most part, we don't have to share our Social Security number with credit agencies or anyone else. But if you want a file, you need a number." And so, the so-called "credit privacy number" is a way to get a credit file without giving your SSN out.
"The dilemma is that it's a nine-digit number that's not your SSN and can't be someone else's," says Sullivan. Finding a number that you can legitimately use as a credit privacy number is very difficult to do. "People use it like an SSN, but then the Social Security Administration assigns it to someone else, or it was a deceased person's number," he says. If that's the case, whether you intended to do so or not, you'd be committing fraud and potentially subject to serious criminal penalties.