Your Social Security number is a valuable piece of information to identity thieves. It’s a key element of your identity and is also linked to taxes and credit information. And except in limited circumstances, it can’t be changed. That’s why it’s so worrisome to have your card lost or stolen.
Here are some steps to take for a lost or stolen Social Security card:
1. Consider placing a fraud alert or a security freeze on your credit reports or locking them. With an initial fraud alert, potential lenders and creditors are encouraged to take additional steps to verify your identity, such as contacting you by phone, before extending new credit. A fraud alert lasts for one year and can be renewed. Fraud alerts are free. Contact one of the three nationwide credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion – to request a fraud alert, and that bureau will notify the other two.
Security freezes help prevent access to your credit reports to open new credit accounts, with certain exceptions. Security freezes are federally regulated, and a freeze must be temporarily lifted or permanently removed each time you apply for new credit. Placing, lifting and removing security freezes is free.
Options for locking your credit report may also be available from the three nationwide credit bureaus. Learn more about fraud alerts, security freezes and credit report locks.
2. Request a replacement card from the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration allows free card replacements; you are limited to three per year or 10 throughout your life (name changes and other exceptions don’t count). You can create a my Social Security account to request a replacement card if you:
- Are a U.S. citizen age 18 or over with a U.S. mailing address
- Are not requesting a name change or any other changes on your card; and
- Have a driver’s license or state identification card from a participating state. More on which states participate here.
Please note: You cannot create a my Social Security account online if you have a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit reports.
If you are not in a participating state and cannot request a replacement card online, you will have to apply at a local Social Security office. You’ll need to provide documents proving your identity and age. Learn what documents are needed here. Print an application and fill it out, then take the application and documents to the Social Security office. Your new card will be mailed directly to you.
You might also consider calling the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213 to report the lost card.
3. Check your credit reports. Keep an eye on your credit reports in the future to ensure no unauthorized new accounts are opened in your name or no existing accounts are modified without your authorization. You might also want to be on the lookout for any address changes you didn't make or any inquiries from lenders and creditors you haven't applied for credit with. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
An initial fraud alert also allows you to request an additional free copy of your credit report each year from the three nationwide credit bureaus.
If you know your Social Security number has been stolen, here are some additional steps to take:
1. File a police report or a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Report. This will help in case someone uses your Social Security number to commit fraud, since it will provide a legal record of the theft.
2. If you believe your identity has already been used, you can also contact the Social Security Fraud Hotline at (800) 269-0271.
3. Call the Internal Revenue Service at (800) 908-4490 to report the theft and help prevent someone from submitting a tax return in your name.
4. Consider placing an extended fraud alert on your credit reports. An extended fraud alert requires a police or FTC identity theft report. It lasts for 7 years, and requires lenders or creditors to verify your identity (in person or by phone at a number you provide) before opening new accounts or making changes to existing ones.
An extended fraud alert also entitles you to two additional copies of your credit report each year from the three nationwide credit bureaus, and your name is removed from pre-screened credit card or insurance offers for 5 years.
5. If you see information on your credit reports that you believe is inaccurate or incomplete, notify the lender or creditor. You can also file a dispute with the credit bureau reporting the information. To file a dispute regarding information on your Equifax credit report, click here.