If you've lost your Social Security card, or you believe someone has stolen your card, take immediate action. Your Social Security Number (SSN) is the most important and valuable form of government identification you have. A thief can use it to do anything you could do with it, including purchasing property or opening new financial accounts.
Your Social Security Number could be sold to people staying in the U.S. illegally, or even used to commit crimes under your alias. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to invest in the best identity theft protection services (opens in new tab), which can alert you to fraud and help you to reclaim losses from identity theft if your Social Security Card gets into the wrong hands.
Unlike with a lost or stolen credit card or debit card, you cannot close your account when your Social Security Card goes missing, so you need to take this series of steps as soon as you can.
Lost Social Security Card: What to do
Even if you have only lost your card and do not suspect foul play, you need to search thoroughly in every possible location. Of course, it's likely you've already searched in every possible place before seeking the next steps, but replacing a Social Security Card can be a complex process, so you should make sure it's not sitting in an old purse or filing cabinet before taking action.
If you cannot find it, you need to act as if it's been taken. Because you don't know where it is, the safest route is to assume that it's at risk of being stolen, if it hasn't already been. From here on, you need to take the same steps as someone whose purse or wallet has been stolen.
Stolen Social Security Card: What to do
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit
The first step you need to take if your Social Security Card is lost or stolen is to place a fraud alert on your credit. This is free to do and can be repeated annually. This requests that anyone accessing your credit file contact you first, which can allow you to stay on top of potential fraud attempts. Be aware that while it's a common courtesy to follow these fraud alerts, people are not legally obliged to.
2. Call one of the three major credit bureaus
Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax and explain what happened to your card. To speak to Equifax, call 1-888-766-0008 or visit this page (opens in new tab). To contact Experian, call 1-888-397-3742 or go here (opens in new tab) for a fraud alert or here (opens in new tab) for a credit freeze. For TransUnion, the phone number is 1-800-680-7289; the fraud-alert link is here (opens in new tab) and the credit-freeze link is here (opens in new tab). The bureau you called will place the fraud alert with the other two bureaus as well. Every 90 days, renew the fraud alert until you are confident that the situation is resolved. Be prepared for this to last several years.
3. Get a new Social Security card
You can either contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to request a replacement Social Security card, or register for a MY SSA account online at www.ssa.gov and provide documents as proof of identity. This can include a U.S. birth certificate or passport, hospital record of birth, or a driver’s license.
If this isn't possible for any reason, you'll need to visit a local Social Security Administration office to obtain a new card or request a new number.
4. Report the loss to the Internal Revenue Service
Call the IRS at 800-908-4490 or visit www.irs.gov (opens in new tab) to report your card missing and prevent thieves from submitting a tax return in your name and receiving your refund check. This saves you from identity theft and potential tax fraud under your name.
5. File a report with the relevant authorities
Report the potential identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.idtheft.gov. You can also call 1-877-IDTHEFT to do this.
You should also alert the police and file a police report if you fear that your Social Security Card is lost. Filing an identity-theft report will help prevent you from becoming a criminal rather than a victim if a thief uses your Social Security Number to commit a crime. Furthermore, this is required if you want to obtain a new Social Security Number.
6. Closely review your credit reports and accounts
If you ever notice unusual activity, report it immediately to the applicable creditor as well as to one of the three major credit bureaus. You must provide strong evidence to the Social Security Administration of fraud on your account to secure a new Social Security Number. An identity theft protection (opens in new tab) service can help you monitor and protect your accounts to help with this process.
How to get a new Social Security Number
First, you need to determine whether your credit is at risk. Many times, thieves sell Social Security Numbers to people trying to get a job, but other times criminals will use the number to commit fraud, which is when you need to get a new Social Security Number by filing with the Social Security Administration. There are a few things you need to know first.
- The process is tedious. You must provide clear evidence of hardship, including run-ins with police, denial of new loans or credit that is too difficult to fix.
- The problem does not vanish when you obtain a new SSN. Your old SSN still exists, and therefore you must continue to monitor it. When you apply for new credit, your old SSN will still be associated with you.
- You'll have to build your credit from scratch. With a new number, you will have no prior credit, making loans and credit cards difficult to obtain.
- The Social Security Administration has final authority. The agency typically does not support giving out new numbers, and so it may not give you one.