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If your Social Security card is lost or stolen, you can replace it for free through the Social Security Administration (SSA) website, by visiting a local SSA office or through the mail. If you don't need a card right away and you know your number, you may not want to go to the trouble, because you are not required to have an actual Social Security card.
You are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime, but there are some exceptions. For example, if you have a legal name change, this does not count toward the limit; neither do changes in immigration status that require card updates.
What Is the Process of Getting a New Social Security Card?
Getting a replacement Social Security card involves just three steps:
Step 1: Gather Documentation
You'll need to gather some important original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency (photocopies or notarized copies are not accepted by the Social Security Administration). The paperwork needed is used to prove the following:
- Citizenship: You must show proof of your U.S. citizenship such as a U.S. birth certificate or a U.S. passport.
- Age: You must show proof of your age with a birth certificate, U.S. hospital birth record, U.S. passport or religious record made before the age of 5 showing your date of birth.
- Identity: You must prove your identity showing a U.S. driver's license, state-issued ID card, U.S. passport or employee ID card, school ID card, military ID card or health insurance card (not a Medicare card).
All of the documents must be up to date, as the SSA will not accept expired documents or receipts showing that you have applied for these documents.
Step 2: Apply Online
Step 3: Visit the Local SSA Office
Print out and bring your application and the original documents to your local SSA office. If you filled out the application online, the site will direct you to a page where you can find the closest SSA office in your area. You can also submit your application using an online form, provided you meet certain criteria outlined below.
Getting a Replacement Social Security Card Online: Extra Requirements
Yes, you can request a replacement Social Security card online if you are a U.S. citizen age 18 or older with a U.S. mailing address. You must also have a driver's license or a state-issued identification card from one of these states. If you meet those requirements, you can set up an account on the SSA site to request a replacement card.
Can I Replace My Social Security Card the Same Day?
The fastest way to replace your Social Security card is to request a new one online. You can also visit a local SSA office in your area. According to the SSA website, it typically takes 10 to 14 business days to receive your new card once your application has been processed.
What if I Can't Apply for a Card Online?
If you can't apply for a Social Security card online, then you will need to show the required documents in person at your local SSA office. The documents needed will depend on your current citizenship status and your age.
Different documents are needed if you are an adult and a U.S.-born citizen, a foreign-born U.S. citizen, or a noncitizen. Also, if you are replacing a Social Security card for a child, you'll want to check the SSA website to determine which documents you will need.
What if My Social Security Card Was Stolen?
If you're replacing your Social Security card because it's been stolen, there are several precautions you should take immediately to reduce your risk of identity theft. Your Social Security number is a very important piece of personally identifiable information that can be used to open new credit accounts in your name, among other things, if it falls into the wrong hands.
- Alert the authorities. You should contact local law enforcement to file a crime report. You'll need this later on when you alert other agencies and take action to restrict access to your credit file.
- Add a fraud alert. Adding a fraud alert to your credit files lets creditors know you've been a victim of fraud or worry you may be a victim in the future. A fraud alert instructs creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity before granting any new credit in your name. Placing a fraud alert with any one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax) will automatically alert the other two to do the same.
- Check your credit. It's important to monitor your credit carefully after your Social Security card is stolen. If an identity thief uses it to take out a credit card or loan in your name, it will appear on your credit file. With Experian, you can check your credit report and scores for free every 30 days and get free credit monitoring.
- Freeze your credit. If you want to go the extra mile for peace of mind, you can freeze your credit, which will prevent anyone from accessing your credit while the freeze is in place. Credit freezes must be turned on and off at each credit bureau individually. To place a credit freeze with Experian, explore the Security Freeze Center.
- Replace your card. Obtaining a new copy of your card will make it easier to prove your identity in the future. Be sure to put your replacement card somewhere safe to help prevent it from being stolen again in the future. Avoid carrying your Social Security card with you at all times, instead only taking it out of your safe space when you need to.
Protect Yourself Going Forward
Once you've followed all the steps to get your replacement Social Security card, it's wise to take action to protect yourself. You may have received a new physical card, but your Social Security number will remain unchanged, and anyone who comes into possession of your old card can use it to commit fraud. This may mean staying diligent about what's on your credit report for years to come.
The good news is there's a lot you can do to prevent your Social Security card from being used nefariously. In addition to taking steps to protect your identity, make sure your new card is stored safely and securely and only leaves your home or safety deposit box when absolutely necessary. Losing possession of your Social Security card can be a nerve-wracking experience, but you've got tools at your disposal to make sure it's replaced quickly and your identity is protected for years to come.