Lost your Social Security card? You can replace it, with the help of documents such as your driver's license or U.S. passport, at your local Social Security office.
But what's even more important than getting a new card — considering that you should have already committed your Social Security number to memory — is making sure that identity thieves and other scammers don't use your number to open credit card accounts in your name, break into your online bank accounts, or steal your income-tax return.
Eliminating this threat of identity theft should be your top priority, even outranking the need for a new card, should you lose your Social Security card.
Replacing a stolen or lost Social Security card
If you do lose your Social Security card, think about whether you want to replace your physical card. After all, knowing your Social Security number is what’s most important, not the physical card itself. You rarely, if ever, must show your card to anyone.
But if you do want a new card, getting one is an easy process.
The U.S. Social Security Administration provides a list of helpful tips for replacing a lost card at this page.
- Step one is to find documents that you can use to prove your identity and get your new card. According to the Social Security Administration, you’ll need a U.S. driver's license, state-issued non-driver identification, or a U.S. passport to prove your identity. You might also need to prove your U.S. citizenship or lawful noncitizen status with your birth certificate or U.S. passport.
- Be sure to find originals or order copies certified by the agency issuing your documents. The Social Security Administration won't accept photocopies or notarized copies of these documents.
- Next, print and fill out the Application for a Social Security card, which you can find here.
- Finally, you can bring or mail your application for a replacement card to any Social Security office. Use this link to find the office closest to you.
- You might also be able to apply for a replacement card online by using this link. To do this, you must have a my Social Security account. Click here to create an account or to learn more about the process.
What matters most: Protecting yourself against identity theft
The big issue when losing a Social Security card is that a criminal might find it. And if the criminal is savvy, he or she might be able to use your Social Security number to steal your identity. It’s why security experts say that you should keep your Social Security card at home in a safe place and never carry it with you in your wallet.
Your Social Security number is a true find for identity thieves.
- They can use it to apply for loans or credit card accounts in your name. You’ll get sent the bill for their borrowing or credit card purchase.
- Thieves might also use your Social Security number to access your online bank accounts or credit card portals. They can then use your funds to pay for online goodies or rack up charges on your credit cards, again leaving you with the bill.
- Some thieves might even use your Social Security number to fill out your income taxes. They’ll then steal any tax refund due to you.
The lesson here? If you lose your Social Security card, you need to take the steps necessary to thwart identity thieves.
How to help stop identity thieves
Don't ignore a lost Social Security card. Instead, take the steps necessary to protect your identity from scammers.
Place a fraud alert with the credit bureaus
Once you've discovered that you've lost your Social Security card, place a fraud alert with the three national credit bureaus of Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You only need to place an alert with one of the bureaus. That bureau will contact the other two.
A fraud alert requires creditors that check your credit report to take additional steps to verify that it is really you who is requesting new credits or loans. If a lender checks your credit, the credit bureau will contact you to make sure you applied for the loan.
An initial fraud alert will remain on your credit file for one year. You have the option to renew the alert after this expiration if you are still worried about identity thieves.
Review your credit reports and financial statements
You want to catch the signs of identity theft quickly. The best way to do that is to monitor your credit reports and your online accounts.
You can order your free credit reports — one each maintained by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — from AnnualCreditReport.com. Typically, you can order one free credit report from each bureau for free every year. During the pandemic, though, you can order a free report from each bureau every week.
Once you get your reports, look for any credit card accounts or loans that you know you never took out. Strange accounts on your credit reports are a sign that someone is using your identity to open new accounts and take out loans.
Also check your online bank and credit card accounts for suspicious purchases or large withdrawals. Thieves might have used your Social Security number to access these accounts.
Contact your financial providers
If you spot anything suspicious on your credit reports, bank accounts or credit card accounts, contact your bank, credit card providers, and the lenders behind the fraudulent accounts.
Explain that someone is making illegal purchases in your name, is taking out loans in your name or is fraudulently opening credit card accounts under your name. You are not responsible for any fraudulent purchases. Ask your bank or credit card provider to close your cards and account to protect yourself from any additional illegal activity.
You should also change the passwords on your other accounts. You want to make sure to protect them from an identity thief.
Freeze your credit
If you’re worried that someone is using your Social Security number to steal your identity, freeze your credit with the three national credit bureaus. A freeze prevents lenders, credit card providers, and other creditors from accessing your credit report, even when you, or someone else, applies for a new loan or credit card. Because your credit is frozen, identity thieves won’t be able to open new accounts in your name.
If you want to apply for a loan or credit card, you will have to unfreeze your credit. Fortunately, both freezing and unfreezing your credit is free. Unfortunately, you must freeze your credit at all three bureaus.
You can freeze your credit at these links:
Report your lost Social Security card to the IRS
Reporting your stolen Social Security card to the IRS can prevent scammers from filing a tax return in your name. For more information, check out this identity protection page from the IRS. It gives an easy-to-understand breakdown of how to report a lost card.
File a report with the FTC
You should also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission, which collects information about identity theft. You can do this at this link.
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