What happens when you lose your Social Security card?

By Allstate Identity Protection

If you lose your Social Security card, you may be at risk of losing money you’ve earned, your Social Security benefits may be depleted, plus debt could accumulate in your name. It's important to know what to do, so you can act quickly in the event of a loss. However, to understand the harm that you may experience, it helps to understand the fundamentals of Social Security.

If you lose your Social Security card, you may be at risk of losing money you’ve earned, your Social Security benefits may be depleted, plus debt could accumulate in your name. It's important to know what to do, so you can act quickly in the event of a loss. However, to understand the harm that you may experience, it helps to understand the fundamentals of Social Security.

What is Social Security?

Social Security is a system established by the federal government to offer benefits to U.S. citizens. When you start earning income and paying taxes, you'll be paying into these benefits through federal taxes so you can eventually access funds in the event of retirement or disability.

Social Security benefits

There are a number of benefits associated with Social Security:

  • Retirement Benefits: These pooled funds will often be modest, but will help prevent debt after employment.
  • Disability Benefits: If you ever face a condition that leaves you unable to work, you could qualify for disability benefits.
  • Survivors Benefits: If a family breadwinner were to pass away, these benefits would support their family by helping to replace the lost income.

How Social Security cards work

When you enroll in the Social Security system, you will be assigned a 9-digit number that will be used to track your accumulated wages and allow you to access your benefits. This 9-digit number will be marked on a card for you to keep.

 The federal government will provide Social Security cards for:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Permanent residents
  • International, or non-U.S. citizens, employed in the U.S.

When you need to use Social Security cards

Your card will be your reference for your Social Security number, which you are required to present to employers. While you want to limit who you share your information with, your employers are among the small selection of people who will need your Social Security number. They will need your number so you can accumulate your Social Security benefits while working for them.

If a citizen or other person in the Social Security system has passed away, their Social Security information will need to be shared with the funeral director. The director will then pass the information to the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can also report a death directly to your local Social Security office.

What happens if you lose your Social Security card

Without your Social Security number and your Social Security card as physical proof, you might be unable to secure employment or collect benefits.

A lost or stolen card could also leave you at risk of identity theft. Identity thieves could fraudulently collect your accumulated retirement benefits, file for disability benefits in your name, or report your death so they can collect your life benefits as a false dependent. They could also open bank accounts, accumulate credit card debt and ruin your credit score, or steal your tax refunds by filing them using your information.

Up to 46% of identity theft complaints annually are regarding governmental benefits theft, which could deplete your lifetime Social Security benefit earnings. Bad actors could steal your information from your stolen or misplaced card, or even from your trash, where you may have disposed of your credit report or valuable information like your tax filings. If you live in a state where your driver’s license includes your Social Security number, you could have your identity stolen from this identification, too.

How to prevent losing your Social Security card

To avoid the risk of losing your Social Security card, you need to keep it safely stored, so it’s harder for the wrong person to access it. Here are some other tips you can use:

  • Have your number memorized so you won’t need to carry your card with you.
  • Do not keep your card in your wallet or purse, which are more vulnerable to theft.
  • Be wary of who you share your information with — ask why your card or number is necessary or provide alternative identification like your driver’s license, your birth certificate, a piece of mail with your address, etc.
  • Be careful when disposing of documents with your Social Security information on them, like your credit reports or tax information.

What to do when you lose your card

If you ever lose your card, there are actions you can take to limit the potential harm it may bring. Contact the police and Social Security Administration to report possible theft, and begin applying for your replacement card right away.

When you apply for your replacement Social Security card online or in-person, you will need an identification card or document that indicates your U.S. citizenship and identity. These could include:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. driver’s license
  • government-issued ID card 

If these identification cards or documents have also been stolen, you can use other forms of identification such as documents from your employer, your school institution, your health insurance ID, or details offered by your healthcare provider.

Social Security offices will also need to prove your age with a birth certificate. If you do not have a birth certificate available, you could prove your age with documents mentioned above, U.S. hospital records with your birth date, religious documents, or documents of your long term residence if you grew up outside of the U.S.

Remember that you will need to present the original issued documents — not photocopies or photos of the documents.

How you can keep your personal information safe

While the precautions we've discussed can help you keep your Social Security card safe, one of the most effective things you can do to protect your sensitive personal information is to rely on comprehensive identity protection.

Allstate Identity Protection provides proprietary monitoring tools that can provide additional peace of mind. We'll alert you to activity as soon as it’s detected, and if we discover fraud, our experts will work around the clock to fully restore your identity, so you can keep your Social Security benefits your own.