Can I Use My Personal Tax ID Number to Build Credit?

Thousands of noncitizens each year get a mortgage using an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). Regular citizens might think that they can "erase" their negative profile by building a new history with an ITIN, but this is illegal and probably won't even work. If you truly cannot get a Social Security number, it might be possible to build credit with an ITIN.

Identification

The Internal Revenue Service does not promote the use of the ITIN for anything other filing taxes when you cannot obtain a SSN, according to the agency's website. Since the credit bureaus track credit histories based on SSNs and mailing addresses, using an ITIN does not guarantee you can build credit. The credit bureaus report information from lenders, so you would have to persuade a creditor to report your ITIN as an SSN.

Alternative Credit

People who have only an ITIN often use alternative credit agencies to build credit. Alternative credit agencies report bills, such as rent and utility payments, in return for a monthly subscription. Some ITIN borrowers use the age-old tactic of saving canceled checks or receipts from creditable accounts to prove their creditworthiness to lenders.

Warning

If you have an SSN and current credit profile, you cannot escape it by substituting an ITIN for your SSN on loan applications. This is an illegal tactic called "file segregation," according to the BCS Alliance. Lenders that find out that you used an ITIN to hide your other credit profile could notify the attorney general of your state, who will charge with felony credit fraud; also this may result in fines, jail and the cancellation of your loan.

Tip

Undocumented workers should ask their consulate for a identification card. Workers coming to the U.S. through Mexico often sign up for a "matricula consular" to prove their identity, according to BusinessWeek. Using supporting identification, along with an ITIN so you can pay taxes and verify income, is probably enough to acquire the same loan as someone using an SSN, such as a mortgage and car loan.