How to Replace a Lost or Stolen Social Security Card

That little rectangle of paper that holds your Social Security number may not seem like much but it is one of your most important pieces of identifying documentation. You need this little document for a lot of things and if it were to get into the wrong hands it could have a ruinous effect on your life.

It is important therefore to not only protect it but also replace it if need be. In this post we will teach you more about the Social Security card and help you find out how to replace it if you need to.

What Is a Social Security Card?

A Social Security card is a small rectangular piece of banknote paper which bears your legal name and a very important nine digit number. This number is a vital piece identifying documentation that most people's parents will apply for before they even leave the hospital after their child is born.

In years gone by people might not apply for their Social Security card until they were ready to start work but these days things have changed. In order to claim children as dependents on your taxes they must have a valid Social Security number which is why most hospitals will actually assist new parents in making the application on their child’s behalf.

This will therefore be the first identifying document that most people have. The principal reason for the Social Security card and subsequent unique nine digit number upon it is to identify the owner for taxation purposes. You must possess a Social Security card to find legal employment in the United States.

The card allows the U.S. government to withhold Social Security insurance taxes from your paychecks which go into a universal fund. It is from this fund that state pensions are drawn and that the money for disability payments are also found.

History of Social Security Card History

On August 14th 1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law as part of his New Deal initiative. This would create the three person department known at that time as the Social Security Board (SSB).

There was initially no budget for this presidentially elected board but eventually they did secure temporary funding from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. It took a little over a year before in October of 1936 the first Social Security office opened its doors in Austin, Texas.

In January of 1937 the first Social Security insurance taxes started to be collected from the paychecks of workers who had enrolled in the program. Just three years later Ida May Fuller of Brattleboro, Vermont was the first recipient of a pension check from the Social Security fund. Ida received $22.54 in that first check.

What Should You Do if Your Social Security Card Is Lost or Stolen?

In the event that your Social Security card is lost or stolen then it is suggested that you act immediately without delay. The importance of this document should not be underestimated and you may need to protect yourself against serious financial risk.

If you know that your card was stolen you should immediately file a report with the police. They may not be able to do anything to retrieve it but having a record of the theft on file may help you greatly later on.

You may simply have misplaced your Social Security card and are confident that it is not in the hands of anyone else. In this case you can likely forego the police report and move onto the next step of the process.

Whether the card was lost or stolen you should probably inform the Social Security Administration. This again will help you protect yourself against any illegal activity performed using your card if it falls into the hands of someone else.

If you know your Social Security number without looking at the card and do not already have a My Social Security account online then I would suggest you get one. This online portal is the quickest and easiest way for you to get a new Social Security issued and sent to you.

The My Social Security account will also let you view your earnings statements which may be important as a way to monitor for any illegal use of your card as well. It should be noted that if you do not have a My Social Security account you should do so as it is possible that someone else with your Social Security number could claim the account for themselves.

If you believe there is a chance that someone else might have your card and as a result be in possession of your unique nine digit number your next step should be a freeze on your Social Security number. This will notify the credit bureaus that your Social Security number has been compromised and will have them alert if someone tries to open a line of credit in your name.

The loss of your Social Security card should also put you on high alert when it comes to tracking your financial health. Regularly check your credit score for any unexpected changes that could indicate fraud. Do the same with your bank accounts as your Social Security number can be used by thieves to access your financial accounts.

Having diligently reported the loss of the card where appropriate and placed protections against fraudulent use of your card it is finally time to get your new card.

Applying for a New Social Security Card

In many cases simply knowing your Social Security number is all the information you need but there are situations in which the physical card is required. If for example you are starting a new job your boss may need to see the card for I-9 purposes. As mentioned you need a Social Security number to be able to legally work in the United States.

So even though you do not need your physical card right now you may still need it in the future and this at a minimum will take 10 days. The process of getting a new card is not difficult as long as you plan ahead and make sure you have everything you need.

As mentioned the easiest way to order a new Social Security card is using your My Social Security account. In most states you can use this online method to order a new card although there are a few that do not allow this.

In those states that do offer this option there are some basic requirements that you must also meet to use the online account. You must have a United States mailing address, be a U.S. citizen and only be requesting an identical replacement of the original card. You can not perform name changes or request a change of the number itself online.

As long as all criteria are met the process of ordering a new card will simply require that you upload a scan of your valid driver’s license or state-issued ID card. You already confirmed that the card belongs to you when you signed up for the account so the online process is easy.

The second and third options to use if you can not request a new card online would be to actually visit a Social Security Office in person or mail in an application with supporting documents. The mail option will take a little longer and you run the risk of losing original documents in choosing this option.

Visiting a Social Security office you will need to fill out a SS-5 form which is also used to apply by mail. Ensure that you collect the documents required to apply which may vary from state to state. Documents usually have to be original as photocopies are not accepted. They also need to be current and not expired.

Whether you apply online, in-person or by mail you can expect the processing to take 10 – 14 days and to receive your replacement card in under 30 days.

Protecting Your Card Going Forward

Hopefully you moved quickly enough and protected your Social Security number from any misuse. It may have been a close call so you will likely want to take better care of your card in the future. The old card is still out there somewhere so you should definitely consider signing up for credit monitoring services.

A credit monitoring service will quickly identify unexpected activity regarding your Social Security number and notify you. Contacting the credit agencies like Experian, Equifax and Transunion can also let you put a credit lock on the Social Security number.

With a credit lock in place the process of applying for new lines of credit becomes more involved and requires more rigorous identification verification. It may be irritating to you but it will stop thieves in their tracks.

Even if you have a credit monitoring service in place just for your own peace of mind, check your credit score yourself from time to time. Vigilance is key to stopping someone from stealing from you using your Social Security number.

Finally, once you get that new card in your hands lock it away safely in a lockbox or safe. You don’t need it with you at all times, it's not a driver’s license or official ID. Only take it with you when you know it is needed.

At all other times that card should be safe at home away from thieves or accidental loss. You can only request 10 replacement cards during your lifetime so protect it.


Social Security cards are very important to us so we must make sure they are safe. If our card is lost or stolen this could cause serious issues in our lives so we need to take steps quickly.

Report the loss to the appropriate authorities and place any protections necessary on your credit and banking institutions. Once you have protected yourself against fraud go ahead and order a new card.

Once you have that new card, secure it away safely in your home and only bring it out with you when you actually need it. You can have up to 10 replacements of that card at most throughout your lifetime so try and only use one of them.

Reference SSA Locator

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  • " How to Replace a Lost or Stolen Social Security Card". SSA Locator. Accessed on June 25, 2024.

  • " How to Replace a Lost or Stolen Social Security Card". SSA Locator, Accessed 25 June, 2024

  • How to Replace a Lost or Stolen Social Security Card. SSA Locator. Retrieved from