Learning how to find your social security number is not difficult. For starters, if you were issued a social security card as a child, there’s a good possibility your parents are still in possession of that card and can give you the number right away. For others, finding your social security number may take a little digging through old documents still in your possession. Going directly to the source by requesting your number from the federal Social Security Administration is also an option. For those who do not already have a social security number, applying for one is not difficult as long as certain requirements can be met.
What Is a Social Security Number?
Understanding what it is and why it was created may provide you with clues about how to find your social security number (SSN). Essentially, a social security number is a nine-digit number assigned to children and adults by the United States federal government. Today, this number is widely used to apply for a range of benefits which may include things like health insurance and government services. The primary purpose of a social security number, however, is so that the United States government may keep track of an individual’s earnings for the purposes of taxation and to determine the social security benefits due to those participating in the workforce.
In fact, tracking for taxation and benefits is why the social security number was originally created. In 1935, then President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. He did so to create a way of keeping track of people’s earnings in order to calculate how much each worker should be taxed. The Social Security Act was also created as a way to pay benefits out to older adults who were no longer participating in the workforce due to age. This only laid the groundwork for the social security number, however, as it wasn’t until the following year that the Treasury Department instituted a numerical system requiring each individual to have a unique identifying number.
Although the social security number was created to help the government identify and track individual workers, it is important to note that it was not meant to be a form of identification elsewhere. In fact, social security cards printed before 1972 had words printed on the front of them plainly stating that they weren’t supposed to be used for identification purposes.
The idea that cards weren’t intended to be used for identification outside of tracking wages eventually changed. As time progressed, the number came to be used by privately-owned credit reporting agencies, lenders, utility companies, and other organizations. It also started being requested by other government agencies of people who turned to the government for assistance with things like food, basic living expenses, and shelter.
At its creation, the SSN also wasn’t created to be particularly secure or private. Unfortunately, once the number became so widely used beyond its intended purpose, many people found this out the hard way. Once criminals gained access to these numbers and began abusing them by way of identity theft and fraud, people realized the value in protecting these numbers like never before.
Who Has a Social Security Number?
Now that the SSN is commonly used by the government and in private industry, American workers aren’t the only people who may have a number. In the last 50 years or so, it has become common for parents to apply for a number on behalf of a child either at birth or soon after. Migrant workers who are allowed to legally work in the United States may also have a social security number.
Why Do You Need to Find Your Social Security Number?
Despite its original purpose, the social security number is commonly used as an identifier in today’s society. As such, a person may need it to do things like:
- Opening a banking account
- Applying for a U.S. passport
- Accessing healthcare benefits
- Applying for a loan
- Applying for credit privileges
- Applying for a job
- Obtaining government assistance
Without a social security number, it can be difficult to find legal employment. Those who don’t have one find it impossible to apply for things like welfare or unemployment benefits, too. While there is no law stating a person must have a social security number, navigating life in the United States of America without one can be difficult.
How to Find Your Social Security Number
Ask Your Parents
Some adults have yet to use their social security number and, therefore, may not even realize they have one. It is a good idea to ask a parent or legal guardian if a number has already been issued. There’s a good likelihood your parents used that number for one or more of the benefits or services named above and have just never had a reason to share the number with you prior to being asked to do so.
Ask Your Employer
If you already have a social security number, but simply cannot locate your original social security card or can’t recall the number offhand, your employer should be able to share that information with you. This is because, upon being hired, you were asked to provide that number on tax-related forms required by law for every employee.
Check Your Personal Files
If you’ve ever filed personal taxes, your social security number was submitted to the Internal Revenue Service. You may also find your social security number on loan documents relating to any student loans or mortgage loans you’ve applied for in the past. So, browse through your old files to search for the number one one of those documents.
Contact the Social Security Administration
Whether you fall into the category of people who have a social security number –but just do not know what it is or can’t recall it –or whether you never had a social security number at all and now need one to access employment, services, or benefits, the Social Security Administration can help you obtain one.
If you were previously issued a number, you may apply for a replacement card online at the Social Security Administration’s website. Note that this service is only available to those who are:
- Citizens of the United States
- An adult 18 years of age or older
- In possession of a state-issued identification card or a driver’s license
If you do not meet these requirements your online request cannot be processed, but you may personally visit the Social Security Administration office in your area for assistance in obtaining a replacement card.
For those who have never had a number, you may request one in person at the Social Security Administration closest to you. The first step in applying for a card involves proving your identity in order to establish if you are eligible to receive a social security number.
Some of the documents the administration may ask you to provide include:
- Your official birth certificate (or a record of your birth issued by a hospital in the U.S.)
- A state-issued identification card or driver’s license
- A U.S. passport
- A U.S. military identification card
- Copies of U.S. tax records
- School or employee identification cards
- A health insurance card
Of course, you won’t be asked to show all of these, but you will need to present at least two of these documents before your eligibility can be determined.
If you are a United States citizen who was born in a foreign country, in addition to some of the identifying documents listed above, you will be asked to provide additional documentation, which may include:
- A Consular Report of Birth Abroad
- A Certificate of Report of Birth
- A Certificate of Citizenship
- A Certificate of Naturalization
Non-citizens who have the legal right to work in the United States may apply for a new social security number or request a replacement card if needed. This application must be completed in person at a local office of the Social Security Administration. Documentation to prove immigration status, student status, or work eligibility is necessary and examples of what is needed are listed on the Social Security Administration’s website.
Parting Advice About How To Find Your Social Security Number
Now that you know how to find your social security number, it is important to take every measure to protect it. Certainly, you don’t want to lose it, but you also want to make sure it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands as that could result in major credit and financial issues. Be very careful about who you share your number with and take note of the ways in which they intend to protect your number. For more information about your social security number, please visit our article archives.