Have you heard of credit privacy numbers, also known as credit profile numbers, or CPNs?
CPNs are nine-digit numbers that are marketed as “replacement Social Security numbers” to use to apply for and obtain credit.
But, are CPNs legitimate and recognized by the government?
We’ll make this easy—No and no.
We are talking about CPNs because last month, Donald Batiste, of Louisiana, was charged with using his credit-repair company to defraud hundreds of individuals and financial institutions. According to authorities, he allegedly stole and misused more than 300 identities, and he reportedly generated more than $5 million through his financial fraud schemes. He’s facing charges that include theft, identity theft, and money laundering.
In one of his schemes, Batiste allegedly sold CPNs, for $350 each, to unknowing victims—he offered CPNs as “replacements to the victims’ SSNs”—who were hoping for a fresh financial start despite having previous challenges with their credit.
Shortly before he turned himself into authorities last month, Batiste was the subject of a “Nightline” news feature on “synthetic identity theft.” He told Nightline that he would “go in the system and apply for this new credit profile through the Social Security Administration.”
Batiste’s claims were completely false. As our investigators have told Congress and the media before, “despite what many credit repair websites imply, CPNs are not legal.”
Batiste also told Nightline that the FBI was another source he used to legitimize his claim that CPNs are legal. The FBI does not issue or endorse CPNs, however.
The CPNs Batiste issued were actually stolen SSNs, and many belonged to children. After Batiste was arrested, the Louisiana Attorney General offered several tips to parents to protect child identities:
- Secure all paper and electronic records that show your child’s personal information.
- Avoid sharing your child’s SSN unless you know and trust the other party. Ask why it’s necessary and how it will be protected.
- Shred all documents that show your child’s personal information before throwing them away.
- Use the alert and freeze options offered by credit reporting companies to notify you of suspicious activity or stop unauthorized activity.
- Remain vigilant of events that put information at risk. For example, an adult in your household wants to use a child’s identity to start over; you lose a wallet, purse or paperwork that has your child’s Social Security information; there’s a break-in at your home; or a school, doctor’s office or business notifies you that your child’s information was affected by a security breach.
Since Batiste was arrested on Sept. 22, authorities have arrested two of Batiste’s alleged co-conspirators. Brenda Taylor was arrested on Sept. 23; she reportedly colluded with Batiste on his schemes and also used fraudulent SSNs to obtain a vehicle loans. And on Oct. 6, Jessica Clements-Batiste was arrested and charged with similar participation.
In addition to the CPN scheme, the group also reportedly sold fraudulent Social Security cards, bank statements, utility bills, tax documents, and so-called “secured” lines of credit (for upfront fees as high as $4,000). If convicted, Batiste and his co-conspirators face up to 75 years in prison.