Q: A friend of mine heard you on the radio talking about how companies can change your Social Security Number and fix your credit. Can you explain this to me in detail?
A: I was talking about a relatively common scam in which a so-called credit repair company claims it can give you brand new credit, and promises to wipe your credit history clean.
The way this is done is the credit repair company gets you to sign you up for a federal employer identification number, also known as an FEIN. This number is how companies are tracked by the IRS. It’s like a Social Security Number for companies and it even has the same number of digits (not a particularly bright move on the part of the IRS, but there you have it.)
Once you get your FEIN, your credit history will appear magically cleared up. The reason this is a scam is your FEIN isn’t your social security number. Of course, your FEIN credit history will appear perfect, because it’s a brand new number. If you went to myFICO.com and pulled up a copy of your credit history on your original Social Security Number, it would still appear damaged and full of negative information.
If you fall for this scam, you can do tremendous long-term damage to yourself and perhaps be considered an accessory to fraud by the IRS and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Here’s why:
If you start a new job and give the employer your new FEIN (which you would think of as your new social security number), as far as the Social Security Administration goes, you’re starting from scratch. You’ve eliminated your work history. Down the line, this could severely limit, or eliminate, your social security benefits when you retire.
Since getting a new social security number isn’t permitted (you only get one in your life), there are cases pending where the victim has been sued along with the scam artist for perpetuating a fraud.
Having bad credit is bad enough, you don’t need legal action on top of it.
The only way to repair your credit is to it yourself, slowly over time. The good news is the process is free. You just have to invest the time to make sure your credit history contains no errors, and then pay your bills on time.
The bottom line: Anyone who tells you they can wipe your credit history clean is lying.