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How to Replace a Lost or Stolen Social Security Card

And What to Do Before You Do

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Social Security Card
Tom Grill/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

The first thing you need to know about replacing your lost or stolen Social Security card is you may not really need to. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), it is far more important that you simply know your Social Security number than it is to actually carry your card with you.

While you may need to know your Social Security number for filling out various applications, you are rarely required to actually show anyone your Social Security card. You do not even need your card when applying for Social Security benefits. In fact, if you carry your card with you, the more likely it is to be lost or stolen, greatly increasing your risk of becoming an identity theft victim.

Guard Against Identity Theft First

Before you even start thinking about replacing your lost or stolen Social Security card, you need to take steps to protect yourself from identity theft.

If your Social Security card has been lost or stolen, or if you suspect your Social Security number is being used illegally by someone else, the SSA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommend that you take the following steps as soon as possible:
Step 1: Place a fraud alert on your credit file to prevent identity thieves from using your Social Security number to open credit accounts in your name or access your bank accounts. To place a fraud alert, simply call the toll-free fraud number of any one of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies. You only need to contact one of the three companies. Federal law requires the company you call to contact the other two. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies are:

Equifax - 1-800-525-6285
Trans Union - 1-800-680-7289
Experian - 1-888-397-3742

Once you place a fraud alert, you are entitled to request a free credit report from all three credit reporting companies.

Step 2: Review all three credit reports looking for any cases of credit accounts you did not open or charges to your accounts you did not make.

Step 3: Immediately close any accounts you know or think have been used or created illegally.

Also See: Protect Your Kids from ID Theft at School

Step 4: File a report with you local police department. Most police departments now have specific identity theft reports and many have officers dedicated to investigating identity theft cases.

Step 5: File an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online or by calling them at 1-877-438-4338 (TTY 1-866-653-4261).

Do Them All: Note that credit card companies may require you to take all 5 steps show above before they will forgive fraudulent charges made to your accounts.
And Now, Replace Your Social Security Card

There is no charge for replacing a lost or stolen Social Security card, so watch out for scammers offering card replacement "services" for a fee. You can replace your own or your child's card, but you are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Replacing a card because of legal name changes or changes in U.S. citizenship and naturalization status does not count against those limits.

To get a replacement Social Security card you will need to:
  • Present an unexpired original document, , like a drivers license, with identifying information and preferably a recent photograph that proves your identity;
  • Show evidence of your U.S. citizenship if you were born outside the United States and did not show proof of U.S. citizenship when you got your original card; and
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen, show evidence of your current naturalization or lawful noncitizen status.
Replacement Social Security cards cannot be applied for online. You must either take or mail the completed SS-5 application and all required documents to your local Social Security Office. To find your local Social Security service center, see the SSA's Local Office Search website.

12 or Older? Read This: Since most Americans are now issued a Social Security number at birth, anyone age 12 or older applying for an original Social Security number must appear in person at a Social Security office for an interview. You will be asked to produce documents proving that you do not already have a Social Security number. These documents could include school, employment or tax records showing you never had a Social Security number.

Documents You Might Need


U.S. born adults (age 12 and older) will need to produce documents proving their U.S. citizenship, and identity. The SSA will only accept original or certified copies of documents. In addition, SSA will not accept receipts showing that the documents had been applied for or ordered.

Citizenship

To prove U.S. citizenship, the SSA will only accept an original or certified copy of your U.S. birth certificate, or your U.S. passport.

Identity

Clearly, the goal of the SSA is to prevent unscrupulous people from obtaining multiple Social Security numbers under fraudulent identities. As a result, they will only accept certain documents to prove your identity.

To be accepted, your documents will need to be current and show your name and other identifying information like your date of birth or age. Whenever possible, documents used to prove your identity should a recent photograph of you. Examples of acceptable documents include:
  • State-issued U.S. driver's license;
  • State-issued non-driver identification card; or
  • U.S. passport.
Other documents that might be acceptable include:
  • Company employee ID card;
  • School ID card;
  • Non Medicare health insurance plan card; or
  • U.S. military ID card.
The SSA also provides information on how to get new, replacement or corrected Social Security cards for children, foreign-born U.S. citizens and noncitizens.

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