As a social service worker for the public for many years, I have guided people in the right direction to repair and deter ID theft.
What Is a Social Security Number?
A Social Security number (SSN) is very important to an individual. If you are assigned an SSN, that means you are allowed to work in the United States of America. That's all.
Some third-party agencies like banks, colleges, credit card companies, and other businesses like to use the SSN as a form of identification because no one else has your unique SSN. But that is not what the SSN is for. It solely allows a person to be employed.
In some circumstances, an SSN can be assigned to an individual that doesn't allow them to work, and it clearly states that on the card. The Social Security Administration may do this if the individual needs an SSN to be able to receive federal or state government assistance.
How to Replace an SSN Card
Assuming you were already assigned an SSN card, replacing a card is very simple. If you lost your SSN card or had it stolen, all you have to do is go to your nearest Social Security Administration (SSA) office. You can find the nearest office by going to SSA.gov and typing in your zip code in the text box.
You do not have to fill out an application; they will just take walk-ins. If you do want to bring an application, grab the application from SSA.gov. (Click on "2. Fill out and print an application" near the bottom.) You will also need to bring a State ID or driver's license if you are over 18 years of age.
Do not go to any website other than SSA.gov to find or download social security forms. SSA.gov is run by the U.S. federal government. If the website does not end with a .GOV, then you are probably going to a phishing website, and you'll potentially be a victim of ID theft. SSA.gov does not charge for any services or forms. If the website is asking for a price on a form or service you receive from them, you are viewing a fraudulent website. Do not pay for anything!
Required Documents for People Over 18
If you are over 18, the only IDs SSA will accept are the following unexpired documents:
- State ID
- State driver's license
- U.S. passport
Also, it would not hurt if you brought in your birth certificate. The birth certificate isn't necessary if your U.S. citizenship is already established, but sometimes SSA may have incorrect biographical data for you (maybe they misspelled your name, or your date or place of birth is incorrect, or your parents on record are wrong). If that is true, then they can use the birth certificate to correct the misinformation, but it is not something that is vital to replace your card.
If You're Not a U.S. Citizen
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need to also bring your Employment Authorization card or Resident card, depending on your current status with the Department of Homeland Security. If you were a resident alien allowed to work in the country and then you became a U.S. citizen, you will also need to bring your Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship.
If You're Replacing the Card Due to a Name Change
If you want to replace your SSN card because you want to change your name due to marriage or divorce, or you went to the courthouse and officially changed your name, you must bring the name change document along with your valid ID whether it is your new or old name. The name change document must either be the original or certified copy (it usually has a certified seal or a certified stamp). If it's not either, or if it is a photocopy, SSA will not change your name.
To recap, if you're over 18, just walk into your nearest SSA office, with or without an application, and make sure you bring either an unexpired driver's license, state ID, or U.S. passport.
All documents must be the original or a certified copy. SSA will not accept photocopies or notarized copies. If you do not have original or certified copies or acceptable identification, you will be turned away.
Required Documents for People Under 18
If you lost or had your child's SSN card stolen, the requirements for getting a replacement are the same, but there are some slight differences.
Ages 12 to 18
If the child is between 12 to 18 years of age, they can actually request the cards themselves as long as they have valid ID as mentioned in the "Over 18"
section of this article. If they don't have a driver's license, state ID, or U.S. passport, then there are other ID documents that are acceptable.
This list of acceptable ID documents applies to all ages between 1 and 18:
- Child's driver's license, state ID, or U.S. passport
- A private medical insurance card that shows the child's name and date of birth (do not bring a Medicaid card or state assistance medical insurance card; SSA will not accept it)
- A doctor's letter that states the child's name and date of birth and is signed and dated by the doctor
- A vaccination record printed from the health department that shows the child's name and date of birth, signed and dated by the issuer of the record.
- A school record printed from the school of current enrollment that shows the child's name and date of birth, signed and dated by the school official.
- An original baptismal or religious record that shows the child's name and date of birth and the name of the religious organization
- A current school year Associated Student Body (ASB) card or school ID card
Ages 1 to 11
If the child is under 12, then the parent or legal guardian must request the SSN replacement card with the aforementioned ID document of the child and the parent or guardian's driver's license, state ID, or U.S. passport. If you are a legal guardian, you must bring proof that you have custody of the child, which is normally a certified copy of court documents.
Do You Need Proof of Citizenship Status?
- If the child is a U.S. citizen but has not been updated in SSA's system, you must provide proof such as a Certificate of Birth Abroad, Certificate of Citizenship, or U.S. passport.
- If the child is not a U.S. citizen, SSA will need the Employment Authorization card or Resident card.
Can You Get a Replacement Card Online?
If your state of residence is listed at SSA.gov and you have a valid driver's license from that state, are a U.S. citizen over 18 years old, and are not changing your name, you may be able to apply online for a replacement card at SSA.gov. This is a way for you to avoid long lines and a drive.
Warning: Only Use the SSA.gov Website!
You can only apply for an SSN card online at SSA.gov. If it is not SSA.gov, then you are visiting a fraudulent website.
What About by Mail?
The only other ways you can request a replacement card are in person in the SSA office or by mailing an application, your actual valid ID (no photocopies), and the other necessary documents to the nearest office. Since most people are reluctant to mail in their driver's license or U.S. passport, then it is best to just visit your SSA office and do it in person.
Can You Get a New SSN Number?
Social Security Administration will not assign you a new number if you were already assigned a legitimate SSN that belongs to you—and only you. It is possible to get a new SSN, but it's extremely difficult. There are a few scenarios where you can get a new SSN. The following two are the most extreme:
- Domestic Abuse: You are a victim of severe domestic abuse, and you fear for your life because the abuser knows all your information and can track you down. If this happens, you can request a new number, but you must provide sufficient, detailed proof such as court documents that cite domestic abuse, medical papers that state the cause of abuse, police reports, and adult protection services from the state's social services.
- ID Theft: You are a victim of severe identity theft, and it has caused you reprehensible harm to your credit or livelihood. If this happens, you must provide excessive proof that the ID theft has caused unbearable harm to your credit—as in, you cannot obtain a job or government permit/license, or you've lost investments. You must provide proof of harm, such as credit reports, bank statements, police reports, and letters from government agencies.
Your Old Number Will Still Be Linked to Your New Number
Even if you are approved to receive a new number, the old number that was assigned to you will be linked to your new number. Receiving a new number will not make your problems go away in an instant. It is just a way to get a new start in your life.
How to Mitigate ID Theft
ID theft is a common crime committed worldwide. You must stay vigilant to prevent ID theft and act immediately if you suspect that your identity has been stolen. Here are a few tips to help you recognize and respond to potential ID theft:
- Call the credit bureaus to request a free credit report on yourself to see if you have any outstanding loans, bank accounts, or credit cards that do not belong to you. If you see something strange on your report, ask for a block or to have the record deleted from your report.
- Inform banks and credit card companies about being a possible target of ID theft.
- Inform utility companies, schools, and other services you may have associated your SSN with.
- File a police report for any instance of ID theft.
Can SSA Help Me If My Identity Is Stolen?
Not really. SSA cannot do much about ID theft when it comes to credit, bank, and utility fraud. As stated in the introduction, the SSN is solely for work purposes (to allow you to work in the USA). SSA has nothing to do with credit cards, bank loans, utility bills, etc. If it is not about work or employment, SSA cannot help you.
How the SSA Can Help: Controlling Your Work History
What SSA can do, though, is keep control of your work history. If you discover that someone is using your SSN to gain employment, whether it's local, out of state, or international, and it shows up on your work history, SSA can remove that data like it never happened.
For example, say that you are informed by the IRS that you need to submit tax data for a job you never held. That is a red flag warning that you should go to your nearest SSA and look at your work history. If the incorrect employment shows up on your work history, SSA can easily remove it from your record.
As another example, say that you are informed by a third party that you have employment somewhere different from where you stated. Visit the SSA office and check to see if there is any questionable employment on your work history. If it is not on your work history, it is probably too early to detect it. Check again after tax season, usually after April of every year, to see if the questionable employment is in your record. If so, SSA can remove it like it never happened. Controlling your work history is the only role SSA plays during cases of ID theft.
Recap of Getting a Replacement SSN Card
To replace your SSN card:
- Go to your nearest SSA office and bring a valid, unexpired ID (as mentioned in previous paragraphs).
- The interview will only last a few minutes, and if your local office isn't one of the busier ones, you'll be in and out in less than 10 minutes.
Limits on Replacements
Remember, you can only request your SSN at most three times a year, and you're only allowed to have ten replacement cards in your lifetime. Replacement cards due to name changes, marriages, adoptions, and divorces do not count against the ten-card limit.
Covid-19 Pandemic Era
During this difficult time of the pandemic, all Social Security Administration Offices are closed for walk-in visits. The only option to request a replacement card is to file online at SSA.gov or by mail. Not all states are able to file online, so check SSA.gov to find out if your state of residence is on the list.
If you file by mail, you will have to mail it. Most, if not all, SSA local offices have dropboxes inside their lobby, and remember, the offices are closed for walk-in visits. Therefore, you will not be able to simply go to the SSA office and submit your documents in person. If you cannot file online, submit the required documents and application by mail.
If you are reluctant to mail in your driver's license, state I.D., or passport, SSA will accept a printout of your shot records or medical records. SSA understands that people do not want to be without their driver's license or passport for a month or more, so they have been accepting the vaccination or medical records as well. The reason they accept those documents is because it is an official medical record certified by a medical official. For example, SSA will accept the shot records as long as it is signed and dated by the medical official who issued them to you as long as the document has your name and date of birth on it.
If you follow these guidelines, applying by mail is just as easy as filing in person, but it will take about a month altogether from mailing your application to receiving your social security card.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: What if I need another social security card after reaching my 10 card limit?
Answer: If that is the case, then you would need to provide proof of the necessity. For example, if you need a social security card to get hired for a job, you would have to provide a letter from your new employer stating you need your Social Security card to get the job. Another example is a letter from the welfare office stating you need it to receive benefits.
Question: To whom do I report a stolen social security card?
Answer: You'd report it to one of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax) and www.consumer.ftc.gov.
Question: I just lost my ID, birth certificate, and social security card. How can I still get a new replacement social security card?
Answer: You must get a new state id or driver's license. A US passport is acceptable too.
Question: How long does it take to receive a replacement social security card?
Answer: Normally, between five to ten days when you order in office, and two weeks if ordered online.
Question: What is the charge for a replacement SSN card?
Answer: There is no charge or fee. SSN cards are free.
Question: Can I apply for a copy of my Social Security card at a social security office in any state? Or do I have to go to the state I was born in to get a copy?
Answer: With proper ID, you can apply at any office at any state, but there is no such thing as a copy of a social security card. They mail you a replacement to whatever address you provide, and it can take up to 2 weeks but normally mailed to you in 5 to 10 days.
Question: Can I apply online and send scanned copies of original documents as required for my Social Security card?
Answer: Only certain US States can apply online. There is a list of compatible states on SSA.gov . If your state is on that list and you are a US citizen you can do it online as long as you have a driver's license or state ID from that state. And the address is current on your ID. You also can't be changing or updating your name, date of birth or citizenship. There is no need to upload anything as long as you met the criteria I just described.
Question: My 18 year old daughter lost her wallet. It contained her driver's license, social security card, and passport. May I, as her mother, be able to get a replacement SS card for her?
Answer: It depends. Usually the SSA employee will do it if they are still in high school and have a school ID (ASB card). But sometimes the employee will not because the child is 18. If you don't want to risk it, just have your child fill out an application and mail the application and her actual current school year ASB card to the local SSA office. Another way is to apply online but you have to know the info from your driver's license.
Question: If you requested a replacement social security card, but later found the original, is the original still valid?
Answer: Yes, cards do not expire, but I suggest you keep the newer card and keep it in a safe place and shred your older card. It's not wise to have two cards because one could get stolen and be used for ID theft.
Question: Can the SSA give me a copy of my Social Security card while I’m there?
Answer: SSA only gives you proof that you applied for a replacement card. Nothing that has your SS number on it.
Question: My ID is lost, and I can't get a Social Security card without it. I have a birth certificate, is that enough to replace my Social Security card?
Answer: If you can get a certified copy of you medical records that has your full name and date of birth or school records with your name and date of birth and you can't receive your government issued ID with 10 to 15 days, then you can use the medical or school record as ID.
Question: Can a new social security card be issued immediately to walk-ins?
Answer: No, social security cards are made at card centers, and they are mailed to you within two weeks. Walk-ins will get a confirmation letter once a replacement card has been requested.
Question: My son is unconscious in intensive care. I need his social security number to apply for Medicaid on his behalf. How can I do this?
Answer: If he is under 18, a parent can do it for him as long as you follow the guidelines for a replacement SS card for a child. If he is over 18, you would have to provide legal documents that shows guardianship, not power of attorney. If he is over 18 and you don't have time to get guardianship and you just need the number, look at some old tax records when you claimed him as a dependent, his SS number should be on there.
Question: My Texas drivers license has been expired for more than five years. I have my original US birth certifícate. Can I still get a social security replacement card?
Answer: No, a birth certificate isn't an acceptable ID to get a social security card. You will need to replace your State IS, or driver's license or provide an unexpired passport.
Question: I only have a copy of my state ID and my birth certificate. How can I get my SS card?
Answer: Not in office. If you're living in one of the states that are listed that allow online applications