Your U.S. Social Security number is a government-issued identifier that is used in conducting a number of financial and life transactions. Your Social Security number is typically applied for at birth or when U.S. citizenship is granted. You will use your number when filing taxes, applying for jobs and government services and to verify your identification for various purposes. If you lose your Social Security card, you should get it replaced as soon as possible.
One of the most serious consequences of losing your Social Security number is that if an unscrupulous person finds it, sells it or uses it, your personal identity can be compromised. If someone has your Social Security number along with other identifying information, such as your birth date, address, employment background and other pertinent information, they can apply for credit or identification in your name. Thieves who act quickly can rack up a significant amount of debt that can take you years to get out from under.
Access to Confidential Information
If someone else has your Social Security number, they can access highly personal and confidential information about you, including your banking information, health and education records and other sensitive documentation that is typically protected. They can also apply for documents like passports, driver's licenses and other forms of identification.
Replacement Card Process
If you lose your Social Security card, you should apply for a new one. This process involves providing multiple pieces of documentation that prove you are who you say you are, typically a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport or citizenship papers. You will have to reapply for a new card at a local Social Security Administration office, and the process of obtaining a new card can take several weeks. Individuals are limited to 10 replacement cards in a lifetime unless extenuating circumstances are present.
Credit and Identity Monitoring
Once your Social Security number has been lost or otherwise compromised, it's vital that you monitor your credit report and your personal financial information in the near future to make sure no one else is using your number to apply for credit or open any type of financial accounts. It can be helpful to utilize a credit-monitoring and -protection service that sends you alerts any time your Social Security number is used to protect you against fraud.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.