With the economic downturn many people have seen their finances and credit scores go south. A poor credit score can make it hard to rent an apartment or do any number of things essential to daily living. So an online ad offering a credit protection number (CPN) to clean up your credit score may sound like the perfect solution. The problem is that the CPN is really a stolen Social Security Number (SSN), often belonging to child.
According to an August 2nd, 2010 AP article
, scammers use computers to find random SSNs, and then check to see if anyone is using those SSNs to obtain credit. If the numbers are dormant, the scammers offer them to customers looking to improve their credit scores, charging from several hundred to several thousand dollars. The customer isn’t told he is buying someone else’s SSN; rather he is told that he is paying for a CPN – a credit-profile, credit-protection or credit-privacy number that will help him raise his credit score to over 700 in 6 months.
The AP article states: “because the numbers often come from young children who have no money of their own, they carry no spending history and offer a chance to open a new, unblemished line of credit. People who buy the numbers can then quickly build their credit rating in a process called ‘piggybacking,’ which involves linking to someone else's credit file.”
Customers are told to use their real name and date of birth with the CPN, but to avoid listing any address or phone number that could connect them to their own current bad credit report. Because it’s unlikely that a child’s credit report will be checked before age 18, the customer using the CPN likely has a number of years before the fraud will be discovered. If you see one of these offers, don’t respond! You may be participating in a fraud.
If you have children, it’s a good idea to go to www.annualcreditreport.com now, no matter what their ages, and see if their credit reports are blank, as they should be. And check back annually. You don’t want your children to find out at age 18 that they have terrible credit reports thanks to someone else buying a CPN and wrecking their credit.