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What to Do About a Stolen Social Security Card

Your social security number is confidential for good reason: it’s used for work, banking, and receiving benefits. A person with access to it can take control of many accounts and assets in your name—with or without you knowing.

That makes your social security card immensely valuable and a ripe target for thieves and fraudsters, both out in the real world and online. Wondering what to do if your social security card is stolen? This guide will walk through everything you need to know.

First Things First

Breathe. Don’t panic, and don’t beat yourself up about it. That’s first.

Having your social security card stolen is unfortunate, but you’ll survive. Having your possessions stolen is never your fault—it’s the thief’s. Even the most cautious can fall victim to robbery or cybercrime. Beyond what’s in your control, any place your social security information might be stored could be compromised.

If it happens to you, and your card or SSN are stolen, there’s a simple three-step process you need to follow to get yourself back on track:

  1. Report the theft
  2. Replace your card
  3. Remain vigilant

After making sure to report the incident and follow up with authorities, you’ll need to replace the card at one of the social security office locations near you. Then, it’s imperative to remain cautious moving forward.

Let’s walk through the details of each step:

Step 1: Report the Theft

Reporting as soon as possible is key.

The first thing you need to do in any case of identity theft is to report it to a handful of parties who’ll help you mitigate damage to your stolen social security number and recover losses. In particular, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) runs IdentityTheft.gov, a comprehensive resource center provided by the federal government where you can report stolen social security cards or any other identity theft.

This applies especially to theft of your social security card, which can be directly or indirectly connected to other compromises, like:

  • Fraudulent accounts opened in your name
  • Fraudulent charges or purchases made with your assets
  • Medical treatment using your insurance

If your physical card was stolen from your person or from storage, you need to report it immediately. If not reported, your personal information will continue to be at risk of fraudulent actions.

How to Report a Known Incident

Reporting identity theft with the FTC is a straightforward process tailored to your particular circumstances. Clicking on “Get Started” from the IdentityTheft.gov homepage brings you to the planning assistant. On this page, you’ll navigate through a series of questions that customizes the advice and resources you’ll be provided.

Then, based on your answers, the FTC puts you in contact with relevant authorities.

In addition to this general guidance, reporting to the FTC immediately creates a record of the identity theft, which can be useful in negotiations with other entities, such as creditors and debt collectors.

And acting swiftly is extremely important. You need to report your identity theft not just to the FTC, but also to any and all major financial accounts that could be compromised as a result of your stolen social security card (or other identification). The longer you wait, the more money you’re potentially liable to pay out of pocket. Freeze your accounts as soon as possible.

While you are entitled to rights as a victim of identity theft, certain protections scale with proximity in time:

  • Federal law mandates that the maximum liability for unauthorized use of credit is $50
  • If the theft of identity is reported prior to fraudulent credit, you’re not liable at all
  • For ATM or debit cards, earlier reporting also leads to lower liability:
    • Maximum losses are capped at $50 for reports two days after the attack
    • For reports after two days but before 60 days, maximum losses are $500
    • For reports registered after 60 days post-attack, losses may not be capped

Finally, you should also consider reporting the theft to your local police department. While this step is not required, a crime report can help to catch the identity thief and protect you and others from further harm. In addition, some stores and creditors will require you to produce a police report in order to refund fraudulent charges.

What to Do if You Suspect Theft or Fraud

Your documents or personal information don’t have to be directly stolen from your person or storage in order for you to feel the effects of identity theft. In fact, online cybercrime is a much more potent atmosphere for theft of all kinds.

The sheer breadth of information stored digitally means that cybercriminals can access your information without you even knowing it—and a lot of it.

That said, there are certain warning signs of identity theft you should always be on the lookout for, including but not limited to:

  • Unfamiliar withdrawals or charges in your accounts
  • Generally unexplainable account activity
  • Unexpected bouncing of checks
  • Suspension of benefits
  • Repeated notices about outstanding debts
  • IRS notices about unaccounted for tax filings or income

If any of these phenomena are happening to you, you may be an identity theft victim. Beyond notifying the FTC, you should also get in touch with the Social Security Administration (SSA). There, the in-house Office of the Inspector General (OIG) can investigate potential fraud conducted using your name.

Contacting the SSA is also the key to your next step:

Step 2: Replace Your Card

Having your privacy and security compromised by theft is an unfortunate situation.

But one silver lining is that, should your card be stolen or otherwise lost, you can get a replacement social security card. In fact, you’re eligible to replace your card multiple times, should you be so unfortunate to lose it more than once.

You can get a replacement card up to three times in one calendar year. And you can get up to ten replacement cards over the course of your life. And, any corrections or updates you need to make don’t count toward those totals. Even after you hit those limits, you may be able to get a replacement if you can prove a dire need for one.

Let’s go over how to get a replacement if you need one:

Gather Your Information

The first thing you’ll need to do is get your documents and information ready for your application. If you live in an eligible area and are applying via mail or internet, any copies of important supporting documents will suffice—all you need is the information on them. If you’re applying in person at your local SSA office, though, you’ll need official, certified documents.

Information you’ll need to provide when you apply includes:

  • Your name and social security number as they appear on your social security card
  • Your date and place of birth as they appear on your birth certificate
  • Information from your driver’s license or state-issued ID

Once you have your documents ready, you’ll need to fill out and submit the application itself.

Fill Out and Submit Forms

The main form you’ll need to submit is SS-5. This same document is used for:

  • First-time applicants
  • Replacement cards
  • Updates or corrections

The process is slightly more streamlined for a replacement than a new or corrected card. You only need to provide one form of identification, rather than several.

That said, if you’ve needed to make a correction to your card and have been waiting to, this unfortunate circumstance could provide an opportunity for you to do it. Common changes made to social security cards include:

  • Updating your name after marriage or a legal name change
  • Correcting an incorrect date of birth
  • Reflecting a gender confirmation

Once the application is completed and submitted, all that’s left to do is wait.

Wait for Your New Card

Once your form and all relevant documents have been submitted, it’s time to wait for your card to arrive in the mail. Typically, after processing, you can expect it to arrive within about ten to fourteen business days (two to three weeks). Then, once your new card arrives, it’s important to take steps to ensure you won’t need to go through all of this again.

Step 3: Remain Vigilant

Finally, the last step extends beyond the immediate event of your card being stolen into practices you should carry on into the future. In order to minimize the damage that could occur as a result of this theft, you should be sure to safeguard all your accounts by:

  • Frequently updating all passwords, PINs, and logins
  • Setting up multi-factor authentication on all online accounts
  • Increasing physical security measures on storage (padlocks, etc.)
  • Set up a fraud alert with your bank to track abnormal account activity

And, if you hadn’t already, it’s time to stop carrying your social security card on your person.

Whether you know your SS card has been stolen or you have simply lost it, action needs to be taken. If you aren’t sure if it’s been stolen, read up on how to report a lost social security card.

Only Carry When Necessary

There’s no reason to carry your social security card with you on most days.

Even if you’ve grown accustomed to doing so, it’s much safer to keep your SSN card in a safe location within your home or elsewhere. Commit your number to memory, if possible. In most situations that require social security verification, just your number will suffice.

Another element of increased security includes entrusting the help of professionals for your social security needs.

Simplify Your Social Security with NotYourSocialSecurity

Here at NotYourSocialSecurity, our mission is simplifying everything about social security for you. That means providing informational guides on a variety of topics, like what to do if your card is stolen.

It also means providing robust, comprehensive services like our E-Records tool.

If you’re dealing with a stolen SS card, the last thing you need is to wait in line at a packed office.

Wondering how to order a social security card online? We’ll help you get your new social security card without ever leaving the comfort of your home. Beyond servicing your application, we also provide you with reliable guidance before, during, and after the entire process.

Get in touch and see just how easy social security card replacement can be.

Sources:

FTC. IdentityTheft.gov. https://identitytheft.gov/

FTC. Know Your Rights. https://identitytheft.gov/Know-Your-Rights

FTC. Steps. https://identitytheft.gov/Steps

SSA. Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number. https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10064.pdf

SSA. Learn What Documents You Will Need to Get a Social Security Card. https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5doc.htm

SSA. Replacement Card. https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/replacement-card.html

SSA. Social Security Number and Card. https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/