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What to Do If You Lose Your Social Security Card

Close up of someone's hand holding their Social Security card.

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The unthinkable just happened: You lost your Social Security card when you needed it most. So, what do you do if you lose your Social Security card? It’s important to be prepared ahead of time in case you lose important documents that contain personally identifiable information.

Knowing what to do when you lose your Social Security card can help prevent additional headaches, such as identity theft. If your wallet or purse was stolen, file a report with your local police department and call the Social Security Association (SSA) at 1-800-772-1213 to request a replacement.

Why Is a Social Security Card Important?

If you’ve lost your Social Security card, you’re not alone. It’s a more frequent occurrence than you might expect. Even though you may not carry it around with you every day, you’ll probably need it if you’re starting a new job, collecting government benefits, or for identification purposes.

However, there are limits to how often it can be replaced. You may replace your Social Security card up to 3 times free of charge annually and up to 10 times in your lifetime. Exceptions to this rule include:

  • Legal name change
  • Citizenship status change
  • To prevent significant personal hardship (for example, if you are elderly and it would present hardship if you didn’t have one)

How to Obtain a New Social Security Card

If you can’t find your Social Security card, the My Social Security account website can walk you through the steps for getting a replacement card. To get a new Social Security card, you must comply with the following requirements:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • May not be requesting a name change or any other change to your Social Security card
  • Must be a resident of one of the states that permit a current driver’s license to stand as proof of identity

Furthermore, you need to complete the following three steps to get a new Social Security card:

  1. Discover what original documents you need to prove your identity, citizenship, and age.
  2. Complete this Social Security Application and bring it to the SSA office. . You’ll need to provide your name, SSN, and other identifying information (such as your parents’ names and SSNs).
  3. Use the SSA’s online office locator to mail or bring your documents to the SSA office closest to you. When hand delivered, an SSA employee can make sure all the necessary documents are included and in the required condition, which will help to reduce the waiting time. For fastest processing times, request your new social security card online if you are eligible.

Identity Documents for Non-Citizens

If you are not a citizen, what do you do? If you lose your Social Security card, you need to show that you are permitted to live and work in the United States to get a replacement. Required documents include one of the following:

  • Green card
  • Employment authorization card
  • Work permit from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

How Long Do You Have to Wait for a Replacement Social Security Card?

Unless you’re applying online, the short answer from the SSA for standard applications is 10-14 business days. This assumes that all the required documents have been provided (either originals or certified copies) and that there is no backlog of replacement card requests already in their system. If there is a backlog, the waiting time may take up to four to six weeks.

So, what do you do if you lose your Social Security card and you need some sort of proof that you have it? If you need the card quickly for employment or a legal matter, request from the SSA a letter stating the replacement application has been filed and the letter can be used until the replacement card is received.

Avoiding Scams: Leaving Your Card at Home

In addition to getting a new card, there are other proactive measures to take if you lose your Social Security card. First, reduce any possibility of identity theft by leaving your card at home.

Credit cards, bank accounts, checking accounts, and most other forms of personal identity can be reissued with new account numbers &mdash everything except your SSN, which you keep for your entire life. To help guard against the possibility that an identity thief gains access to your Social Security card, consider taking these preventative measures:

  1. Enroll in an identity theft monitoring program
  2. Notify your financial institutions, monitor your accounts, request new accounts if you suspect any unusual transactions
  3. You have up to 90 days to request a free credit report from all three firms after completing a fraud alert notification, with step-by-step instructions on how to do so (you only need to report a fraud to one of the three firms, as they are required to inform the others).

Once you have taken all recommended actions, you might want to routinely monitor your financial reports for unusual activity and keep your Social Security card in a safe location at home or in a safe deposit container with other sensitive documents.

Still Unsure What to Do? If You Lose Your Social Security Card and Need Help Contact a Professional Today

If you have lost your Social Security card or have related legal questions, an attorney can help. Schedule a free legal evaluation today.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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