In 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 no-risk affair. But people do suffer lost or stolen wallets all the time. Pairing that experience with a lost Social Security card only doubles the pain.
While there are 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. This article covers everything you need to know and answers the big question: “What do I do if I lost my Social Security card?”
Act fast if your Social Security card is stolen
If your wallet or purse containing your Social Security card is stolen, contact your local police department as soon as possible to file a theft report. Also, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to request a replacement Social Security card.
How to apply for a replacement Social Security card
If you lose your Social Security card, you may be able to apply for a replacement card online through the Social Security Administration (SSA) website, if you meet certain requirements. Review them here. Otherwise, you’ll need to follow an application process that involves providing documentation and completing an application.
Here are 3 simple steps to prepare to apply for a replacement Social Security card:
- Learn what original 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. Make sure to bring in the original documents. 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.
The good news 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 website. 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 valid, current driver's license or a state-issued identification card from most U.S. states or the District of Columbia. The following states are not currently eligible:
To apply for a replacement Social Security 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 the following proof of identity:
- A U.S. hospital record of your birth.
- A religious record indicating your date of birth (the certificate must be established before you turned age 5).
- A current valid 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 U.S. Certificate of Naturalization, employee identity card, a certified copy of a medical record (from a clinic, doctor or hospital), a health insurance card, Medicaid card, or school identity card.
Note that the identification documents listed above must either be originals or certified copies from the issuing agency. The SSA will not accept photocopied IDs or copied documents that have been notarized. Any receipts proving you applied for a legitimate form of identification will not 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 SSA office at the SSA website.
Once your application is completed, and your information is verified, the SSA will mail your new 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.
Can I replace my Social Security card the same day?
It typically takes 10-14 business days to receive your new card once your application has been processed, according to the SSA website. The fastest way to replace your Social Security card is to request a new one online.
Avoiding Social Security fraud: Leave your Social Security card at home
Once you receive your replacement Social Security card, lock it away in a safe place until you absolutely need it. Experts advise to avoid carrying your card around on a regular basis — partly because of the risk of losing it again, and partly because you really don’t need to present your Social Security card 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 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 help prevent 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 protection for 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. You can download your statement at the “My Account” section of the SSA website.
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