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In this, the digital age, the notion of losing your wallet or purse—with your Social Security card lodged inside—may seem like a low-risk, or even a no-risk affair.
But people do suffer lost or stolen wallets all the time, and pairing that experience with a lost Social Security card only doubles the pain.
While there are certainly dependable ways to avoid losing your Social Security card, like locking it away in a safe place and keeping the card out of your wallet or pocket, people still lose their Social Security cards. Make no mistake, getting a card back can be a bit of a process.
Steps to take when you lose your Social Security card
If you lose your Social Security card, you may be able to apply for a replacement card online through the My Social Security website if you meet certain requirements. Review them here. Otherwise, you’ll need to follow a process that involves providing documentation and completing an application:
- Learn what documents you need to verify your citizenship, age and identity. You’ll find a list at the Social Security Administration website.
- Fill out and print a Social Security card application.
- Take or mail the documents and application to the Social Security Administration. To locate your nearest Social Security Administration office, use the agency’s online office locator tool.
What to do if you lose your Social Security Card
Now that you know the basics, let’s take a deeper dive on what to do if you lose your Social Security card. To be sure, quick action is important.
“If an individual loses their Social Security card, the first thing they should do is make sure they have claimed their ‘My SSA’ profile at the Social Security ‘My Account’ website,” says Devin Carroll, founder of Social Security Intelligence, in Texarkana, Texas. “Not only can you request a replacement card, you can also quickly check the accuracy of your annual earnings history, print benefits statements and change your address.”
When you do reach out to the Social Security Administration to report—and replace—a lost card, know going in that the agency has a substantial “to do” list that needs to be completed before they'll even accept your request for a new Social Security card.
Here’s the deal, on a step-by-step basis:
The good news, if there is any in a lost Social Security card scenario, is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides, free of charge, three card replacements on an annual basis, and 10 free cards in the course of an individual’s lifetime.
How to Get a Replacement Social Security Card
To get a Social Security replacement card, visit the SSA’s My Social Security account web site. There, you’ll be taken through the steps of requesting a replacement card. Keep in mind that you can use this online site to request a replacement card if you:
- Are a U.S. citizen age 18 years or older with a U.S. mailing address;
- Are not requesting a name change or any other change to your card; and
- Have a driver's license or a state-issued identification card from one of these states:
|District of Columbia||Michigan||South Dakota|
|Iowa||North Dakota||Wisconsin (driver's license only)|
To apply for a Social Security replacement card, either online or via mail, you'll need one acceptable personal identification document. By and large, your birth certificate will suffice, although the SSA will also accept:
- A U.S. hospital record of your birth.
- A religious record indicating your age of date of birth (the certificate must be established before you turned age five)
- A U.S. passport
- A final adoption decree (which must show that the birth data was taken from your birth certificate)
There are several exceptions if you can’t get the needed identification documents, or don’t have them at all, the SSA will accept other forms of identification that show your legal name and biographical data. Acceptable options include a U.S. military I.D. card, a Certificate of Naturalization, employee identity card, a certified copy of medical record (from a clinic, doctor or hospital), a health insurance card, Medicaid card, or school identity card.
Note that any of the identification documents listed above must be either originals or copies that are certified by the issuing agency. The SSA will not accept photo copy IDs, or copied documents that are notarized. Any receipts proving you applied for a legitimate form of identification won’t be accepted, either.
Once you have your proper credentials established, simply fill out the SSA's downloadable replacement card form. Make sure the document is signed and dated, then print the completed form out and either bring or mail the document to a local Social Security office. Find your local office at the SSA website.
Once your application is completed, and your information is verified, the SSA will mail your replacement Social Security card to your home address. Expect your replacement card to have the exact same full name and same Social Security number as your old card.
Social Security fraud
Once you receive your new card, lock it away in a safe place until you absolutely need it. Experts advise cardholders to avoid carrying the card around on a regular basis—partly because of the risk of losing it again, and partly because you really don’t need to carry the document around on a regular basis. In fact, one Social Security expert says that Social Security cards are irrelevant in the digital age, and the real priority should be targeted at fraud protection.
“It’s extremely rare that you need your actual Social Security card,” says Steven J.J. Weisman, Esq., an Amherst, Massachusetts-based college professor whose expertise is in investigating white-collar crime. “A Social Security number is the most important piece of information that a criminal can use to make you a victim of identity theft so you shouldn't carry it with you in your wallet, anyway.”
But if you do lose your card, Weisman strongly recommends taking direct action to protecting the cardholder from financial fraud. “Because of the danger of identity theft if your Social Security card is lost, you should put a credit freeze on your credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies in order to prevent someone from leveraging the Social Security number into accessing your credit or establishing accounts in your name,” he says.
Other data security experts agree, citing the high risk of losing a card if you cart it around in your wallet or pocketbook.
“It's never a good idea to carry around a Social Security card unless you are going to fill out an application that requires you to have the Social Security card on your person,” says Robert Siciliano, a security industry specialist based in Boston. “That’s especially so since it’s a rare occasion that we need our Social Security card with us on a 24/7 basis.”
Siciliano suggests that if you really need to carry your Social Security card around, opt for a mobile approach, but with a big security precaution. “Just take a photo of it and upload it to your mobile device,” he says. “As long as your device is password-protected you should be fine.”
To block any Social Security fraud, make sure your Social Security card number doesn’t appear on other identification cards, like a health care insurance card. Also, make sure your driver’s license number isn’t the same as your Social Security number. If your bank or credit card company tries to use your Social Security number as an account number, ask for a new number.
As a last layer of data protection with your Social Security card, take time at least once per year to review your Social Security Earnings Statement for any indications of a breach or Social Security fraud. Find the statement at the Social Security “my account” page https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/.
If you’ve lost your Social Security card, don’t wait to address the situation and apply for a new one. A lost or stolen card leaves you at higher risk of fraud, and the sooner you lock down a new card, and keep it in a safe and secure place, the better.
This article is designed to educate readers. That means that while LifeLock, which sells identity theft protection services, produced the article, the point is NOT to encourage you to buy LifeLock's products. The point is to inform and educate so that you are empowered to make sound decisions, whether you buy from us, a competitor, or not at all.