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How To Protect My Social Security Number – Losing your Social Security card is not a tragedy. After all, you rarely have to show your card anywhere. It is important to know your Social Security number.
But what could happen if you lose your Social Security card? If your lost card ends up in the hands of scammers or cybercriminals, they will gain access to your Social Security number and could cause significant damage.
How To Protect My Social Security Number
Armed with your Social Security number, criminals can take out loans or open credit card accounts in your name. They can access your online banking or credit card account and use your funds to buy electronics, expensive restaurant meals, hotel stays, and anything else they want.
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Some may even use your Social Security number to file a tax return in your name and get the tax refund you are owed. Others may sell your Social Security number to bidders on the dark web.
The most important thing is to help protect yourself from potential identity theft. Yes, you can order a replacement card, but your priority should be to prevent criminals from using your Social Security number to create problems in your financial life.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent the damage thieves can cause, even if they steal your Social Security number.
Posting a fraud alert with the three national credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—encourages lenders or creditors to take extra steps to verify that you are the one applying for a new loan or credit card and not someone pretending to be you.
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For example, if someone applies for a new credit card in your name, the credit card company may call you at the number you provided. You can then check whether you have applied for a card or whether someone is trying to fraudulently open an account in your name.
All you have to do is place a notice with one of the three credit bureaus, and that bureau will contact the other two. Your fraud alert will remain attached to your credit file for one year. You have the option to extend your notice beyond the one-year period.
Best of all, you can post a scam alert for free. You can contact the bureau here to place an alert on your credit files:
You want to spot the signs of identity theft as soon as possible. If you lose your Social Security card, you should order copies of free credit reports—one of each, supported by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—from AnnualCreditReport.com.
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Typically, you are allowed to order one free report from each bureau each year. Due to economic uncertainty following COVID-19, you can order one free report from each bureau each week. This makes it even easier to monitor your credit reports for suspicious activity.
Once you receive your statements, check them for credit card accounts or loans that you know you never opened. Strange scores on your credit reports are a sign that someone is using your identity.
It’s important to check your online banking and credit card accounts for suspicious purchases or large withdrawals, as criminals could use your Social Security number to access these accounts. If you’re particularly concerned about identity theft, consider checking these online accounts daily for suspicious activity.
If you notice anything unusual on your credit reports, bank accounts or credit card accounts, contact the bank, financial institution or lender associated with those accounts.
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Explain that you recently lost your Social Security card and suspect that a criminal is using your Social Security number to make purchases in your name, obtain fraudulent loans, or open credit card accounts using your information.
Please remember that you are not responsible for these fraudulent purchases, but are responsible for reporting them. Ask your bank or credit card provider to close your cards and bank accounts to stop any additional purchases or withdrawals.
The next thing you should do if you lose your Social Security card is change the passwords on your online accounts. You want to make it as difficult as possible for identity thieves to access these accounts, and protecting them with strong passwords is an easy step.
You can get additional protection from scammers by freezing your credit with the three credit bureaus. The freeze prevents lenders, credit card providers and other creditors from accessing your credit report, even if you (or someone else using your name) applies for a new loan or credit card.
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Since lenders and creditors cannot access your credit, they automatically deny any requests for a loan or a new credit card. This prevents identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name.
What happens if you lose your Social Security card and someone files a tax return in your name? They can steal your tax return and possibly defraud you out of thousands of dollars.
Report your stolen Social Security card to the IRS to prevent scammers from filing a tax return in your name. For more information, read about protecting your personal information from the IRS.
You should also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you’ve lost your Social Security number and are concerned about identity theft.
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Once you’ve taken steps to protect yourself from identity theft, you can move on to ordering a replacement Social Security card. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to do.
Do it online. You can order a replacement Social Security card online. To do this, you need to set up an account.
Verify your identity. If you are unable to request a new card online, you will need to bring certain documents to your local Social Security office. You need to bring either original documents or copies certified by the issuing authority. Social Security agents cannot accept photocopies of these documents or notarized copies.
You will need to verify your identity by providing a U.S. driver’s license, government-issued non-driver ID, or U.S. passport. The Social Security Administration has a helpful list of documents you may need.
Social Security Order Online
Foreign-born citizens: If you are a foreign-born U.S. citizen, you may be required to provide proof of your citizenship. Accepted documents include your U.S. passport, certificate of naturalization, certificate of citizenship, birth certificate or consular certificate of birth abroad.
How to Apply for a New SSN Card: You can apply for a new card in person at any Social Security office.
How long does this process take: While this process may vary, you can expect to receive your new Social Security card within seven to 10 business days.
Before you order a new card, you may want to consider whether you need it. You will rarely have to show anyone your Social Security card. You may have to provide your Social Security number, but you don’t need a physical card to do this.
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If you receive a new card, be especially careful with it. Don’t put it in your wallet where you might lose it again. Instead, keep it in a safe place at home.
Keep in mind that you are not guaranteed an unlimited supply of Social Security cards—you can request a maximum of three replacement Social Security cards per year and 10 over a lifetime.
Read on to find out answers to some common questions about what happens if you lose your Social Security card.
Yes! You don’t want your SSN card to fall into the hands of a criminal who could steal your identity. It is critical to set up a fraud alert with the credit bureaus to flag any suspicious activity.
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Yes, anyone can steal your identity if you lose your Social Security card because you give them the information they need to open new accounts, get fraudulent tax refunds, get loans, and more.
No, you can’t block your Social Security number, but you can freeze your credit accounts to block access to your reports. By freezing your account, you prevent lenders, credit card providers, and other creditors from accessing your credit report, which results in your loan or new credit card being denied.
Editor’s note: Our articles provide you with educational information. Norton’s offerings may not cover or protect against all types of crimes, fraud, or threats that we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness of cybersecurity. Please review the full Terms and Conditions during registration or setup. Remember that no one can prevent identity theft or cybercrime, and no one can monitor every transaction at every business.
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