I Lost My Social Security Card // What Do I Do Now?

Losing your Social Security card might not seem like a big deal initially. As long as you know your Social Security number, when is the last time you have needed to have the card anyway? A lost Social Security card can have some major consequences as the thieves might be able to open new credit cards, file fraudulent tax returns with the IRS, or find other ways to do damage with this information. Plus, there are times when you need your card to prove your identity like getting hired at a new job or applying for a federal loan.

If you have lost your card, then thankfully getting a replacement card is not that difficult. However, there are some other steps you need to take as well to help protect yourself and your identity. Follow the steps outlined in this guide to help protect yourself and get a new Social Security card quickly.

What Do I Need to Get a Replacement Social Security Card?

There are a series of steps that you need to complete in order to get that new card in your hand. Everything related to your Social Security file is managed by the Social Security Administration, so this is the agency that you will be working with through this process. They handle everything from issuing new cards to sending replacement cards to processing name changes. Their process for obtaining a replacement is pretty straightforward.

You should note that they do have some limits on the number of times you can request a replacement card. You are limited to three replacements per year and a total of 10 during your lifetime. Cards that are replaced due to a name change or change in work status do not count toward your limit. If you are getting close to the limit, then you probably need to assess your method of storing and keeping your card safe. But that’s a topic for another day!

Before the SSA will issue that replacement card to you, you will need to provide them some information about your identity as well as prove your identity to them. They cannot issue new cards without this documentation because it would be too easy to commit fraud and pose as someone else. At a high level, you’ll need to complete the request form and prove that you are who you say you are. Here are more details on the specific next steps.

1. Print and Complete Form SS-5

This particular form is used for a variety of requests with the Social Security Administration. The Form SS-5 is the application for a Social Security card, but it is also used to obtain replacement cards, process name changes, and update or correct other information associated with your SSN record.

The form itself is quite simple to complete. You will need to provide some basic information like your name, date of birth, SSN, and other basic information. If you have questions, there are several pages of directions attached to the form, so many of your questions are likely to be answered within those pages.

The next step is usually the most difficult part of the process for most people. This is where you will need to prove that you are the person you are claiming to be. Specific documentation is required as proof, and we’ll outline those specifics in the next section.

2. Gather All Your Documents

When requesting a brand new Social Security card, you will need to provide documentation that proves your age, identity, and status as a U.S. citizen or immigration status. However, when requesting a replacement card with no other changes, you only need to provide proof of your identity. Here are some examples of documents that will prove your identity:

  • U.S. driver’s license
  • State issued non-driver’s identification card
  • U.S. Passport

If you do not have any of the above documents, then the SSA might accept one of the following documents as proof of identity:

  • U.S. Military ID card
  • Employee ID card
  • Medicare card
  • Health insurance card
  • School record or ID

You should know that whatever document you provide must be an original copy from the issuing agency. Only original documents are accepted. Photocopies are not accepted, even if they are notarized copies. Only originals or certified copies which have been certified by the custodian or originator will suffice.

You should also note that a U.S. birth certificate or Social Security card stub will not suffice as evidence of identity. While a birth certificate will prove age for someone attempting to obtain a brand new card, they cannot be used as a valid ID for obtaining a replacement.

3. Mail or Submit Your Application to Your Local Social Security Office

Once you have completed the Form SS-5, you can mail it to SSA or drop it by your local office. In fact, if you are making no changes and have a U.S. mailing address, you can submit the application online. We’ll get into that more in the next section. If you’re choosing between mail and in-person, then submitting in-person is your best bet.

This will allow you to get your application processed faster, and you can even get a receipt showing that your new card has been requested. This acts as a temporary card until your new one arrives. You can use this receipt at most other government agencies in place of your card if necessary.

Submitting your application in person also keeps your sensitive information out of the mail, and thus helps prevent identity theft. When you have completed your application and gathered your required documents, then you need to locate your local Social Security office. It is a good idea to call ahead as some offices are now taking appointments only due to the COVID situation.

Can I Order a New Social Security Card Online?

Lucky for you, the answer is yes! In some situations, you can request a replacement card online. Here’s what you need to know about requesting a new card online. First, the service is completely free! Next, it is only available if you are only requesting a replacement with no other changes. So, no name changes or any other changes can be processed online.

You will need to sign up for a free account on the SSA website called a My Social Security Account. This only takes a few minutes, and then you can begin the process of requesting your replacement. Once you have your account created, you create the request online and upload your documentation right there on the website.

You will need a driver’s license or state issued identification card to use the online service. However, you should know that Minnesota, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Nevada, and Oklahoma are not yet eligible to use this service. Also, if you live in Alaska, Delaware, or Wisconsin, you must have a driver’s license because a non-driver’s ID card will not work for these states.

How Long Does it Take to Get a New Social Security Card?

The answer to this question depends on which method you use to submit your request for the new one. If you opt to mail in your application, be prepared to wait a while. It typically takes 4-6 weeks for your Social Security card replacement to arrive when you go this route. However, with the current COVID situation, it could take even longer than that.

If you want your card faster, then you should visit your local SSA office. You’ll get a receipt showing your card has been requested the same day, and you should receive your new card in 2-3 weeks. However, to get your card as soon as possible, you should use the online request service. If you are eligible to use the service (no other changes and you live in a participating state), then you should get your new card in the mail in 10-14 business days.

What Do I Do if My Social Security Card Was Stolen?

You need to take immediate action if your card was stolen to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft. First, notify the local police immediately. File a report so that they can start working to catch the thief. Provide them as much detail as possible about where you last had your card and who may have taken it.

Next, you should contact the major credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your Social Security number. This will ensure that Experian, Transunion, and Equifax require extra scrutiny to verify your identity should any requests for new credit be made against your SSN. Placing a fraud alert with one agency should carry across to the other agencies as well. You could even go as far as placing a lock on your credit so that no new accounts can be opened in your name. You must freeze and unfreeze your credit at each individual bureau, so you’ll need to contact each one separately.

You should also get a copy of your credit report and continue to monitor it closely, especially for the next few months after your card was stolen. If any fraud appears on your credit file, you can address it quickly and work to get it corrected. You can obtain a free credit report from each reporting agency, and some even provide a free report on a monthly basis.

Once you have properly reported your card stolen and checked your credit file for possible fraud, then you should start the process of obtaining a new card. To help prevent stolen cards in the future, you should avoid carrying the card in your purse or wallet. There is no need to carry your Social Security card with you everywhere.

Keep your card in a safe and secure location, and only remove the card from that location when absolutely necessary. As soon as you are done with the card, then return it to the safe place. It is imperative that you keep your card safe and do not share your Social Security number because if that information gets in the wrong hands, it could have dire financial consequences for you. You should do everything possible to protect your Social Security number from fraudulent use. There are numerous Social Security scams out there trying to obtain your number for illegal purposes, so stay vigilant!

Conclusion

Replacing a lost or stolen Social Security card is a fairly simple process. In fact, you can even obtain a replacement Social Security card online in most states. Whether using the online process or the paper form, you will need to prove your identity with a driver’s license or other identification document.

If your card has been stolen, then make sure you act swiftly to notify the authorities and protect yourself from financial harm. Keep a very close eye on your credit report and alert the credit bureaus of potential fraud on your record. This will make it more difficult for scam artists to take advantage of using your SSN for their personal gain. Even if your card is simply lost, you still need to keep an eye on your credit report. With a lost card, you never know where it might end up.

Elliot Marks

Elliot Marks

Author & Social Security Advisor

Elliot Marks has spent over 10 years providing clear and concise information to help Americans navigate the complex nuances of social security and many other government services in the United States. Elliot has a passion for helping those in need of these services to be able to find timely access to news and information that is relevant and helpful to their daily lives.