If you lose your Social Security card, here’s the best way to replace it: Quickly.
Bradley Shaw got it right. The Dallas-based digital consultant had his wallet stolen. The wallet contained his Social Security card, driver’s license and credit cards, putting him at a heightened risk of identity theft. Shaw swung into action.
“The first thing I did was start to monitor my credit for fraud and abuse,” he says. “I also contacted the major (credit) agencies and let them know to monitor my account.”
Shaw got up early and drove to the local Social Security Administration office when it opened to request his replacement card.
“I was seen and out of there in about 20 minutes,” he says. “I was provided a letter indicating that a card had been requested, in case I needed to use it. A week or so later my new card arrived.”
Knowing how to replace a Social Security card is important. Whether you lose your Social Security card or it’s stolen, you’ll take many of the same steps to request a replacement card and to protect yourself from identity theft.
Here’s a closer look at how to replace a Social Security card. Learn more about the risks of a lost card and how to minimize them. Find out your options for getting a replacement card.
How can thieves profit from stealing my Social Security card?
Fraud artists can manipulate a stolen or lost Social Security card in a lot of ways—all of which can lead to you taking a major financial hit. Here are three ways they do it.
- Opening new payment cards – Fraudsters often buy the victim’s Social Security number from other data thieves who stole the information. They use the data to open new payment card accounts using the victim’s name.
- Breaking into financial accounts via mobile phone theft – Identity thieves use Social Security numbers to commit digital fraud with stolen or hijacked mobile phones. The victim’s stolen or lost Social Security number allows them to break into mobile phone accounts and steal one-time passwords sent to the recipient’s digital device. The one-time passwords enable them to break into bank, credit card, and other financial accounts.
- Filing fraudulent IRS tax returns – Thieves can use a Social Security number to file a bogus tax return, and generate hefty tax reimbursements — all under the victim’s name and without their knowledge.
Knowing how to get a new Social Security card makes sense given the potential costs if yours is lost or stolen.
How to request a replacement Social Security card
You can replace a lost or stolen Social Security card by starting with a visit online, a trip to a Social Security office or a phone call.
The good news is, the process is straightforward and usually quick. It typically takes about two weeks between the time you report the loss to having a new Social Security card in your hand. Even better news, replacing a lost or stolen Social Security card is free.
The Social Security Administration outlines three basic steps:
- Learn what documents you need.
- Fill out and print an application.
- Take or email the information to the Social Security Administration.
You can start the process of ordering a replacement card online at www.ssa.gov or by calling toll-free 1-800-772-1213.
If you go to your local Social Security office, you’ll need to bring identification — specifically:
- A U.S. driver’s license
- A state-issued non-driver identification card, or
- A U.S. passport
You can fill out an application for a “New or Replacement Social Security Number and Card” on the Social Security website https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/. You can also download and print out the application.
Keep in mind the Social Security Administration requires that all documents submitted to replace a stolen or lost Social Security card “must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency.” The agency “cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents.”
Pro tip: In some cases, you can apply for a replacement Social Security card online if you already have a My Social Security account set up. This replacement option is available to residents of eight states, including California, Texas and Florida, and the District of Columbia. That list may expand. The agency is promoting other benefits of an online Social Security account and encouraging people to sign up.
The process of replacing your Social Security card is different if you were born outside the United States and did not show proof of citizenship when you got your card. In that case, you’ll need to prove your citizenship and identity. Find the details here.
And what if you’re not a U.S. citizen? Be prepared to produce documentation of your current lawful noncitizen status. Find a list of acceptable documents here, along with other details.
Getting a replacement Social Security card is just part of the process. You also have other things to do to keep your identity safe.
Other steps to take after losing a Social Security card
Here are other actions you should take when your Social Security card has been lost or stolen.
Step 1. Place a fraud alert – You should place a fraud alert on your credit file to protect yourself from identity theft.
“You can do this easily by calling one of the three major credit-reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion),” says Danielle Kunkle, vice president at Boomer Benefits, in Fort Worth, Texas. Once you request a fraud alert, the credit reporting agency is obligated to contact the other two agencies to notify them as well.
Here’s the contact info for each agency.
- Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
A fraud alert offers several benefits.
“This is the easiest way to monitor your credit after losing your Social Security card,” says Natasha Campbell, financial educator and money coach at Wealth Style List, an online wealth platform for women. “These companies will contact you by phone to verify when credit is opened under your name. Plus, you can renew the alert every 90 days until you are confident that the situation is resolved.”
Step 2. Review your financial accounts and credit reports – Monitor your credit card statements for suspicious activity and review your credit reports. “You are given one free credit report (from each agency) each year,” Campbell says — and you can get it at AnnualCreditReport.com. “Carefully review your report for activity you did not authorize and report any fraudulent or inaccurate information to creditors.”
Step 3. Report your stolen card to the IRS – If your Social Security card is stolen, you should also report the loss to the Internal Revenue Service. This can prevent thieves from filing a tax return in your name. The IRS has a helpful website page on the topic, “Identity Protection: Prevention, Detection, and Victim Assistance,” that details the reporting process.
Step 4. File a report with the FTC – To further protect yourself from identity fraud, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission, Campbell says. “The FTC collects complaints about identity theft from those whose identities have been stolen,” she says.
You can complete the online complaint form here. Or call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338 with as many details as possible.
“Be sure to save the reference number and a printed copy of your FTC Identify Theft Affidavit,” Campbell says. “You can use this document to file a police report or to counter false credit charges made in your name.”
Step 5. File a police report – You can also report the stolen or lost Social Security card to your local police department. When you do go to the police, bring the relevant paperwork, including a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit and any other proof of the theft. Complete a report about the incident and ask the police for a copy.
Quickness counts when your Social Security card is lost or stolen. Set matters right by notifying the appropriate agencies, protecting your credit, and keeping I.D. fraudsters at arm’s length by getting a new Social Security card as soon as possible.