Most citizens are pretty well informed about which particular documents have sensitive information and thus require to be handled with care. However, do you know what you should do if you lose a Social Security card, driver’s license, or credit card? These three are very common to lose together and losing any one or two of the three can spell out trouble. If you lose any of them, you face two concerns you need to deal with. The first is retrieving such items for personal use. The second is doing whatever you can to prevent possible identity theft that might result from your loss.
It’s quite easy with credit cards. You just call the providers to cancel them or pause the accounts until you get new cards issued. In the case of a driver’s license, ordering duplicates can be done online in many states, although a trip to the DMV might be necessary if you want a new number. It’s worth checking into both these if you lose a Social Security card, because you don’t know what someone might be able to access with your Social Security number and what information they might already have. Having said that, the rest of this content focuses specifically on what you should do after losing a Social Security card in any circumstances.
Getting a replacement Social Security card is simple enough. You compile the required documents proving your identity and citizenship, fill out an online application, and then either visit a local Social Security Administration office or submit it online at https://applicationfiling.com before your new card shows up in the mail. When it does, lock it up somewhere safe until you truly need it. Experts and authorities commonly advise cardholders not to carry their cards around with them on a regular basis. This is partly because you might risk losing your card again. This is also partly due to the fact that it’s really unnecessary to carry that document around with you regularly. As a matter of fact, some Social Security experts claim that these cards have become increasingly irrelevant in a digital age. The true priority of most folks should be emphasizing fraud protection.
Most of the time, citizens only need a Social Security card when starting new employment. Other rare circumstances needing a Social Security card might also warrant use of documents like passports or birth certificates, which are commonly locked up anyway. An individual’s Social Security number might just be the most crucial piece of single information a criminal might use to turn you into another case of identity theft. As such, it’s not something you should carry around in your pocket or wallet in the first place.
Should you actually lose your card, you should take prompt and direct actions towards protecting yourself as a cardholder from potential financial fraud. Start by putting a credit freeze on all your personal reports in each of the three primary credit reporting agencies. This will prevent someone nefarious from using your Social Security number to get access to your credit or even open accounts in your own name.
If you do need access to your Social Security card on a regular basis, a good digital alternative is to use your smartphone. Take a picture of it and keep it on your phone. So long as your phone is fully password-protected, your information should remain safe.
If you want to prevent Social Security fraud, be sure your individual Social Security number doesn’t show up on any other identification cards. This might be things like a health care insurance card or even your driver’s license number. Credit card companies and banks sometimes even use Social Security numbers as part of their account numbers. If they do, request a new number.
One final layer of data protection you can do for your Social Security card is taking time annually to review your personal Social Security Earnings Statement. It might show you indications of fraud or a breach. This statement is often mailed, but you can also look it up under your My Account page at https://www.SSA.gov/MyAccount/.
A credit freeze isn’t the only step you should take if you think your Social Security number might have been compromised. Keeping a close watch on all your credit reports is something you should be doing anyway, but now it pays to be vigilant. A credit score that goes tumbling can raise your interest rates, make you pay more for insurance, and even cost you employment opportunities. You might even start getting calls from furious creditors curious why you’re behind on your bills.
AnnualCreditReport.com makes it easy to see if anyone is using your Social Security number against your will. That site lets you get a credit report each year from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, which are the three primary credit bureaus across the country. What’s even better is that you are legally entitled to a free report from every one of them each year. Once you get these reports, go over them thoroughly, looking for anything unfamiliar. At the least, you might spot inaccuracies that can clean up your credit score as it is. Still, what you’re really looking for is any line of credit you don’t personally remember.
If you do actually suspect that someone might be illegally using your Social Security number, also go to the website IdentityTheft.gov. It’s run by the Federal Trade Commission, and you can use it to file online complaints with their Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Also, contact the IRS. Of all things, this might not seem obvious, but you don’t want an identity theft filing a tax return that’s in your name before collecting your refund money.
The digital age is making Social Security cards increasingly irrelevant in a physical sense, so if you have one, lock it up somewhere safe life a document firesafe or even a safety deposit box in the banks. Fortunately, the digital world makes it much easier than it used to be to track your identity, and you can even often order your replacement card online.