Losing or misplacing your Social Security card can set you up for a world of hurt and endless frustration. That one little piece of paper contains all of the information an identity thief needs to wreak havoc on your financial life. They can open lines of credit in your name, gain access to financial and other accounts, and even use your Social Security number and name to apply for a job. It’s a scary thing to think about, but that’s the reality for people who have lost, misplaced or had their Social Security card stolen.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage caused if someone finds your Social Security card and tries to use it to steal your identity. If you don’t know where your card is, it’s important to take the following steps to ensure that your identity remains secure.
Risks of a Lost or Stolen Social Security Card
Before we get to what you need to do if your Social Security card is missing, it’s important to know the dangers associated with a lost, missing or stolen card. They include:
- Someone else opening a line of credit in your name, charging it up and leaving you responsible for repayment
- Allowing someone other than yourself to gain access to your private banking accounts
- Making it easier for ID thieves to access your credit report
- Making it difficult to verify your identity and citizenship when leaving from or returning to the United States
- Clearing up inaccuracies on your credit report which can take months or years to resolve
- Having someone other than yourself use your Social Security number to gain employment and creating a tax nightmare for you
How to Mitigate the Damage when Your Social Security Card is Missing
When you first realize your Social Security card is missing it’s natural to freak out a little bit. Nothing good can come from a missing Social Security card, but that doesn’t mean that something bad is going to happen. Most of the time the card is simply misplaced somewhere safe. However, it’s important to prepare for the worst when it does happen. That means putting aside your frustrations and taking the following steps to help protect yourself.
- When you realize your Social Security card is missing, the first thing you should do is file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. To get started, simply call 1-877-ID-THEFT or 1-877-438-4338 to file a formal complaint. You can also head over to the FTC website to file your report and learn more about how seriously the FTC is taking ID theft these days.
- You should also file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The agency, also known as IC3, is dedicated to helping victims of cyber related crimes. They can help you navigate your way through this difficult time and will forward your case to law enforcement or regulatory agencies if the situation calls for it.
- Contact the IRS Identity Protection Unit. Give them a call at 1-800-908-4490. The department will help identify if your Social Security number is being misused in tax or employment related schemes.
- Monitor your credit report, bank statements and credit card statements for any suspicious activities or newly opened accounts that you don’t recognize. If you see something that shouldn’t be there, contact your bank or lender immediately and place a “credit freeze” on your account until the situation can be sorted out.
- Do a background check on yourself to see if the identity thieves have created any identities in your name.
These five steps cover the basics of what you need to do when your Social Security card is lost. If you know that your card has been stolen, you should also file an identity theft report with the police and contact all three of the major credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your Social Security number. A fraud alert will make it more difficult for an identity thief to open accounts in your name. You can contact the reporting agencies at:
- Equifax — 1-800-525-6285
- Trans Union — 1-800-680-7289
- Experian — 1-888-397-3742
If you feel that you simply misplaced your card and that your Social Security number has not been compromised, you can request a new card by completing an application with the Social Security Administration. If your identity has been stolen and it becomes an ongoing problem, you can apply for a new Social Security number through the Social Security Administration as well.