How Social Security Numbers Work

Lost or Stolen Social Security Card

What if my name changes or my card is lost or stolen?

In any of these instances, you need to complete a Form SS-5, which you can download from the SSA site. Your new number will be the same as your old number, but to get a replacement card you will need to have proof of identity, such as:

  • Driver's license
  • Employer ID card
  • Marriage license or divorce decree
  • Military records
  • Adoption records
  • Passport
  • School ID card
  • Health insurance card (Medicare card not accepted)

To change your name on your card, you need documentation showing your old name as well as documentation showing your new name. For example, if you were newly married, your old Social Security card and your new marriage license would do. Again, your card number will be the same, but your new name will appear on your new card. You can notify the SSA of a change of address by mail or, if you are receiving regular benefits, by calling (800) 772-1213.


To apply for a new Social Security card, you must provide (in-person) proof of who you are (birth certificate, school record), your age, and your citizenship or legal alien status. If you were born outside the United States, you must also show proof of citizenship.

Only rarely -- in the event of identity fraud or stalking -- does the SSA assign a person a new SSN. Even in extreme cases, you can get a new SSN (no fee involved) only from the SSA. There are more and more companies claiming they can get you a new SSN (for a fee) to help clear your credit record. There is no way they can legally do this, according to fraud examiners.

For more information on getting a new card, call (800) 772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office. (See the SSA Web site for a list of field offices across the country.)

Can someone who steals my SSN and identity be prosecuted?

In October 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deference Act of 1998. This act makes it a felony to use or transfer the identity (including the SSN) of another person. Last year, the act was used to successfully prosecute a Wisconsin man for stealing the identity of a Chicago man (he used the man's SSN to get a job that enabled him to steal computer equipment and open bank accounts and file income taxes in the victim's name). He pled guilty and faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail (followed by three years of probation) and a fine of up to $250,000.

In addition to crimes by U.S. citizens -- crimes that are bilking the government out of millions of dollars each year -- agents in the OIG's Strategic Enforcement Division (SED) say they are also targeting scams run by immigrant groups and foreign nationals.

There is a great deal more to learn about the Social Security program, its benefits and what they mean to you. Check out the Social Security Administration Web site for answers to your questions (sign up for the SSA's e-mail newsletter to keep up with changes in Social Security laws and regulations.