Beginner’s Guide on Social Security Card Replacement

While you rarely need to present a physical Social Security card in everyday life, you know your Social Security Number by heart. Despite this, your Social Security card is widely used for job applications, credit cards, and other life essentials.

A lost or stolen Social Security card is like having your entire identity stolen. Panic may set when you first realize you no longer have the card. If this is the first time your Social Security card has been stolen or lost, here’s what you need to do to replace your card and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Stack of 100 dollar bills with US Treasury illustrative check to illustrate American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 payment with social security card for retirees

Social Security Cards: The Risks of Losing Them

Identity thieves can use your Social Security Number to steal your money and personal information by gaining access to your bank accounts, credit cards, and other accounts. By using your Social Security Number to get more credit in your name, your credit score is negatively impacted, and you may receive calls from anonymous creditors requesting payment for goods you never bought. Your Social Security Number can even be sold on the dark web.

A gloved hand reaches for a social security card and id card.

How to Respond if Your Social Security Card is Lost or Stolen

Before asking yourself, “What do I need to get a replacement social security card?” take these steps immediately:

1. Call the Social Security Administration and your local police department

Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 1-800-772-1214 and your local police department as soon as possible if you lose your Social Security card. Also, contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at (800) 908-4490, so no one can file a tax return in your name.

2. Look at your credit reports

Review your credit card reports and bank account statements for any fraudulent activity. Notify creditors about any suspicious or inaccurate information on your credit reports.

3. Create a fraud alert or place a security freeze on your credit cards

It’s free to create a fraud alert, and it’s valid for a year. When lenders and creditors see a fraud alert, they know to take extra steps to confirm your identity before extending new credit, such as calling you. When you request a fraud alert or security freeze through one of these three major credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion, or Equifax) they will tell the others.

You can also place an extended fraud alert, which lasts for seven years, and you can get two more copies of your credit report from the three bureaus in the first year. You also won’t receive prescreened credit card and insurance offers for five years.

The federally regulated security freeze stops unauthorized access to your credit reports, preventing the opening of new credit accounts. They must either be permanently lifted or removed each time you apply for new credit. Like a fraud alert, it is free, but you need to reach out to all three major credit bureaus.

If your credit reports have a fraud alert or a security freeze, you cannot create a Social Security account online to apply for a replacement card.


How to Replace Your Social Security Card

Remember, you can receive a free replacement card from the SSA, but you are limited to three per year and ten over your lifetime, with the exception of legal name changes on your Social Security Card.

Create a Social Security account

You can create a my Social Security account online to request a replacement card with these three qualifications:

  • Have a U.S. mailing address and are at least 18 years old
  • Not requesting a name change or any other changes
  • Have a driver’s license or state identification card from a participating state

If you don’t qualify, mail a paper application

If you can’t register for my Social Security account, it’s time to ask, “What do I need to get a replacement Social Security card?”

You need to mail a completed application for a Social Security card along with documents to show your citizenship and prove your identity to your local SSA office. The following documents are needed for your application:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate from a U.S. hospital or a U.S. passport. The SSA may use one document, such as your U.S. passport, as both proof of citizenship and identity.
  • Proof of identity with a recent photograph if you do not have a U.S. passport or birth certificate, such as a U.S. hospital record of your birth, Medicare card, or U.S. military identification card.

The office will mail back your proofs. Your replacement Social Security card will be sent to you after your application is processed and the SSA verifies all details. Your replacement card will contain the same full name and Social Security Number as your old card.

Social Security Card: Senior woman holding card in hand on white background

How to Keep Your Social Security Card Safe

You should safeguard your Social Security card as your financial and daily life are dependent on it.

  1. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you. As you go about your daily business, you don’t need to carry your Social Security card everywhere. Instead, you can take a picture of your card with your smartphone and use password protection to conceal your identity from thieves and hackers.
  2. Keep your card in a safe place in your home. After receiving your replacement Social Security card, make sure your card is safe at home, preferably in a fireproof and watertight safe, along with other important documents. You can also contact your bank for a safety deposit box if you will be away for an extended period.
  3. Discard financial documents containing your SSN. You can safeguard your financial information by shredding bills and documents containing your Social Security Number with your personal paper shredder or using a secure shredding business.
  4. Watch out for scammers. Fraudsters gain access to personal information through “phishing” tactics, which lets them impersonate a bank or government official. Be wary of scammers who call you and claim your Social Security Number is in danger or send text messages asking for personal details.

Safeguard your Social Security Card

Your Social Security card is one of the essential documents that support your identity, so it’s critical to keep it safe. It is easy to get a new card from the SSA if it gets lost or stolen, but the process takes time. With the immense identity theft statistics in the US, one must take steps to protect your information including your new card, to avoid identity theft and fraud.