How to Find Your Social Security Number

Our social security numbers are rapidly becoming one of the main pieces of identification we need to do most official things in the United States. This little paper rectangle with numbers on it is important to our lives.

We don’t always need the card itself which is probably good as if you keep it in your wallet it can very quickly become dogeared and ripped. The number is what is most important. Most people have it committed to memory but what if we can’t remember the number and the card is lost or stolen?

In this post we will take a closer look at social security, the cards we are issued and what to do if we lose our cards.

What Is the Social Security Administration?

The social security administration (SSA) is an independent government agency that administers Social Security. It is an insurance program that consists of retirement, disability and survivor benefits. In order to qualify for these benefits most workers pay into the system through Social Security taxes.

The head offices of the Social Security Agency are located in Woodlawn, Maryland and is referred to as the Central Office. There are tens of thousands of workers employed by the Social Security Sgency and it is the largest government program in the United States.

It is estimated that by the end of the 2022 fiscal year the agency will have paid out $1.2 trillion in benefits to 66 million citizens and legal residents of the United States. An additional 61 billion is expected in SSI benefits and 7.5 million to low-income individuals.

This government agency is a vital part of the country's economy and without it millions of already struggling Americans would have nothing. It is a program that many have paid into for decades in preparation for retirement and as an insurance policy against sudden disability.

History of the Social Security Agency

On August 14th 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law as part of his New Deal initiative. This led to the creation of the Social Security Board (SSB) , a presidentially appointed group of three executives tasked with overseeing the social security program.

With zero budget, staff or even furniture the SSB finally obtained funding from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. It was on October 14th 1936 that the first social security office opened its doors in Austin, Texas.

In January of 1937 social security taxes were first collected. Just a few years later the first social security check was issued to Ida Mary Fuller of Battleboro, Vermont. Ida’s check was dated January 31st 1940 and she received $22.54.

The SSB in 1939 merged with the U.S. Public Health Service, the Civilian Conservation Corp and other government agencies to become the Federal Security Agency. In 1846 under President Harry S. Truman the SSB was named the Social Security Administration SSA.

In 1953 the Federal Security Agency was dismantled and the SSA was placed under the banner of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Finally in 1994 President Bill Clinton made the Social Security Administration an independent body once again.

How Do You Find Your Social Security Number?

You may have worked the same job for years and have not used your social security number for anything for just as long. The card is somewhere but you can’t find it and you have no idea what the nine digit number is anymore. How do you find it out without locating your original card?

One of the easiest ways to find it is by finding it on an existing document. We already established that the card is nowhere to be found so what next? How about your tax returns? If you are organized you should have your tax return documents somewhere.

Typically your social security number will be located on the first page of your tax returns. If you can not find the return try and locate your most recent W2 documents from your employer. Your social security number will be on your completed W2 form.

Some bank statements may also list your Social Security number so you might also try checking her for your number. Certain states also include Social Security numbers in your driver's license number. If this is the case in your state then it may be as easy as opening your wallet to find out,

Resident aliens often have problems recalling their social security numbers because unlike citizens who may have had the number for decades they may only have had theirs for a few years. Those not born in the U.S. might find their social security number on their immigration paperwork.

If all else fails and you simply cannot find your number anywhere then you are left with just one option. It is now time to contact the Social Security Administration and request a replacement Social Security card. This is frustrating but we really do need this card number for a great many things in our lives.

How to Replace a Lost Social Security Card

It really isn’t a difficult process to replace a lost Social Security card but you do need to make sure you have the right documentation. If you are lucky and have already set up a My Social Security account, you’re a step ahead in the process.

Those with an existing My Social Security account will have used their unique ID number to set up that service. As a result the process of getting a replacement card is very simple and can usually be done online with very little fuss.

If you do not have an account already you can not go this route as you do need your Social Security number to set up the account. You will therefore have to make a replacement application in person at your nearest Social Security office.

In order to apply for a replacement card you will need to supply certain documents to verify your identity and eligibility to receive the new card. Ideally you should have a U.S. passport or a state issued ID card.

If you do not have a state issued ID card such as driver's licence other documents that can be used include health insurance card, military ID, and school ID card. It is important to note that the ID must be a picture ID so your birth certificate would not be sufficient for this.

You can use a birth certificate for obtaining your first Social Security number but it does not help in case of needing a reissue. Photocopies of documents are also not accepted as valid proof of your identity.

Once you have visited in person with the correct documents the Social Security Agency office will give you a receipt that can act as a temporary Social Security card. You will eventually receive your official replacement card in the mail at a later date.

Why You Should Protect your Social Security Number

Some people may not realize this but our Social Security numbers are not just useful to us but can be a real cash cow for criminals. You might be astonished to learn just how much criminals can do to enrich themselves and destroy our lives by getting hold of that nine digit number.

An identity thief who gains access to your Social Security number can obtain loans and credit cards in your name that they will quickly spend or max out leaving you with the bill and responsibility to take care of.

Thieves can also file taxes in your name claiming a refund and leaving you with nothing to claim and a mess to clear up. Extremely clever criminals might even gain access to your personal bank accounts using your Social Security number. This can allow them to drain your accounts leaving you often in dire financial straits.

It is alarmingly easy for criminals to perpetrate this type of fraud which is why there are so many scams out there designed to obtain your Social Security number. There are government agencies that specialize in fighting this type of fraud but by the time they become involved substantial damage has often already occurred.

Your credit score could be hurt for years to come and you may still be on the hook for thousands of dollars worth of credit cards and loans. This is why it is important to protect your Social Security number and never give it out to an unknown or untrusted source. Those who suffer severe identity theft may even have to change their Social Security number completely.

How Can You Keep Your Social Security Number Safe?

Is your Social Security card in your wallet or purse at this exact moment? Do you need to present it physically for some purpose today? If you do not then take it out right now and secure it somewhere safe in your house.

Ideally a locked box or even a safe would be a great place to keep your card there really is no need for it to be on your person. You should have a state issued ID if you really need proof of who you are so leave that Social Security at home.

If your wallets or purse get stolen and we have our Social Security card in them then they are in the hands of a criminal. This criminal might only care about cash or cards but they may also know how to use your Social Security card to their advantage as well.

Avoid phishing scams that ask for bank or Social Security details. You may receive a call claiming to be from your bank requesting you confirm certain details. Never give them out, request a number you can call to give the details and then check that this number is actually affiliated to your bank.

Legitimate companies will seldom call you to ask your Social Security number or bank details. Always assume this might be a scam and never give these details.

Your credit report is also something you should monitor with regularity. Look for any irregular activity such as credit checks you did not instigate or accounts you did not open. If you see something that you know you did not do, immediately place a fraud alert with the three credit Bureaus (Experian, Transunion and Equifax).

You may need to place a freeze on your Social Security number if the situation becomes severe enough. You may also need to seek further legal advice to try and remedy the situation.

Can I Find Out My Child's Social Security Number?

If your child is claimed as a dependent on your tax returns and they have been issued a Social Security number you should find their number recorded on your previous tax returns. If they do not yet have a number they will need to apply for one before legally being able to work.

It is of course possible that your child received their Social Security number and lost it before you ever used it on tax forms. In this case you would have to follow the same steps to get them a replacement as you would an adult.

Do I Need a Physical Social Security Card?

In many cases merely knowing your Social Security number is sufficient to achieve what you need to. This is not true of all things and you may find you need to supply your actual official card for some reasons so it is wise to have one at hand.

If you have lost the original or it is too severely damaged to be used then you should apply for a replacement. Also note if you change your name legally due to marriage or another reason you should record this with the Social Security Agency who will issue a new card with these changes recorded.


It isn’t that hard to locate your Social Security number; it may be on any number of documents that should be part of your personal files. Even if you can not find the number in these files the process to reissue a card is very easy.

The online process is by far the quickest although you do need an existing My Social Security account for this to work. Otherwise you will need to take a trip to the Social Security office with a few documents to get a new card issued.

Reference SSA Locator

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  • " How to Find Your Social Security Number". SSA Locator. Accessed on June 25, 2024.

  • " How to Find Your Social Security Number". SSA Locator, Accessed 25 June, 2024

  • How to Find Your Social Security Number. SSA Locator. Retrieved from