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How to: Replacing a lost social security card

Apr 6, 2012, 6 a.m.

Certain important personal documents should be guarded like gold, including your social security card. At some point, however, you may discover that you need a replacement social security card. It is good to know that getting a new social security card is not a major chore, but relative easy.

If you are a U.S. citizen, a legal immigrant or a non-citizen, your social security card is one of the most important personal documents you can obtain. It usually is required by employers for tax and payment records, obtaining a job, opening a bank account, medical treatment and other purposes. It is so important that you don't carry this document around with you. Leave it at home, or protected in a bank box or other secure location.

Why protect this document?

Identity thieves love to get their hands on someone's social security card. They can do great damage just by knowing this number or having access to the actual card. The IRS maintains your earnings record over your entire lifetime and it is used to determine many government benefits.

How can I get a free replacement social security card?

If you have lost this important document, you need to obtain a new social security card. You can only do this 10 times in your lifetime; three times in any one year. There are certain exceptions, such as legal name changes.

Order a replacement social security card in person or by mail. The procedure is similar, regardless of your citizenship status; non-residents and immigrants need to provide current proof and official papers verifying their legal status.

Provide the Social Security office with original documents to prove your age, identity and legal U.S. citizen or immigrant status. Most people use a driver's license, birth certificate or passport for this requirement.

Use an official application (Form SS-5) that you can obtain from any Social Security local office or their online website, www.ssa.gov . Deliver it in person or mail it in with documentation. Any originals will be returned to you. Once the agency has verified your documentation, they will send you a new card. Your new social security card will have the same assigned number as your original.

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