By Daryl Rosenthal,
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist In Tampa

Keeping your Social Security number card in a safe place is vital to protecting you against identity theft. Never keep it in your purse or wallet; this is the most common way people lose their card. No matter how hard you try to keep track of your important documents, sometimes they get lost or even stolen.

Getting a replacement Social Security number card is free, but you will have to provide the proper documents to get a new one. Being prepared will save you time at the Social Security office or card center. If you are replacing your card, you will need original or certified copies of the required documents, which include:

Proof of citizenship: If you have not already established your U.S. citizenship with us, proof of U.S. citizenship is required. Only certain documents accepted such as your U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport.

Identity: Only certain documents can be accepted as proof of identity. An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show your name, identifying information (date of birth or age), and preferably, a recent photograph. For example, as proof of identity, we must show your U.S. driver’s license; State-issued non-driver identification card; or U.S. passport.

If you do not have one of these specific documents, or you cannot get a replacement for one of them within 10 days, other documents, including Employee identification card; School identification card; Health insurance card (not Medicare card); or U.S. military identification card should work.

You are limited to three replacement cards in a year or 10 in your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. Changes in immigration status that require card updates may not count toward these limits. Also, you may not be affected by these limits if you can prove you need the card to prevent a significant hardship. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits.

What’s more important than having your card is knowing your Social Security number. This is how we identify you, tally your wages correctly, and how we eventually issue you accurate retirement benefits. You might not even need your card for identification purposes if you know and consistently use your correct number.

For more information about replacing a lost or stolen Social Security number card, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.