Have you misplaced your child’s Social Security card? Or even more unsettling, has it been stolen? You might think your child’s card can’t be misused if he or she is underage. Unfortunately, that's not the case.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Why Should I Replace My Child’s Card?
- Immediate Actions You Need to Take
- Step 1: Gather Documents
- Step 2: Complete Application
- Step 3: Submit
- What if My Child Doesn’t Have a Card?
- How Can I Prevent Fraud?
In 2017, more than one million children were victims of identity theft. Most at risk are children under age seven. Thieves can create new identities using a mix of your child's identification and fake information to open new lines of credit on homes, car loans, and even personal loans. Social Security theft impacts your child's future in other ways, too. It can disqualify your child from financial and college scholarships or even deny him or her employment later on in life.
We’ll show you how to replace your child's Social Security card and learn some action steps you can take to prevent fraud.
Why Should I Replace My Child’s Card?
Technically, you don’t need your child’s Social Security card, but you do need the number for most things. It’s not often anyone or any entity asks for proof of the physical card.
You will also need the number if you plan to open a bank account for your child, get him or her medical coverage, or add your child to your federal and state tax returns. However, there is a lifetime and yearly limit to replacing cards. You can replace your own and your child’s card three times a year or ten times per lifetime.
Memorize your child’s number to be safe so that even if the card is lost, you’ll be able to complete most documents. Remember, a Social Security card is a government document that should remain in your hands. Before you replace your child's card, here are the immediate steps you need to take now to protect your child's identity.
Step 1: Take Immediate Action
First, take a deep breath. There's a chance that a Good Samaritan found your child's card and mailed it back to the Social Security office. However, in case that didn’t happen, here's what you need to do:
- File a police report with your local law enforcement agency. Make sure to keep a copy of the report for your records. Police documentation will help you build a case if you need to file reports with banks or creditors later.
- Freeze your child's credit. You may be hypervigilant about watching your credit report, but if you've lost your child’s Social Security card, your child's credit is compromised as well. Thirty-two states allow you to freeze your child's credit report on their behalf. Complete a freeze request form for each major credit bureau (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). Freezing your child's credit will prevent thieves from opening credit lines under your child’s name.
- Confident the card was stolen? File an identity theft report. This free government service will create a personalized recovery plan for your family.
Finally, you will need to replace your child's Social Security card. We've put together the information you need to know in the rest steps below.
Step 2: Gather Documents
You’ll need to take two types of documentation to your local Social Security office in order to get a new card for your child. Keep in mind the Social Security office only accepts unexpired original documents or certified copies — no notarized copies or photocopies.
First, you will need to prove your child’s identity, citizenship, and age. The only document you can use to prove all three at the same time is a U.S. passport. You can also use the following:
- School ID card
- State issued-ID card
- Religious record
- Certified copy of a medical record (clinic, doctor, or hospital)
- Health insurance/Medicaid card
You will also need to prove your child’s age. Some of the documents the SSA office accepts are:
- U.S. hospital record of your child’s birth
- Religious record before age five
- U.S. passport
Lastly, to prove citizenship, you may use your child’s U.S passport or birth certificate. You can also use:
- Certificate of Naturalization
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad
- Certificate of Citizenship
It’s easiest to use a document that proves more than one requirement. You can use a religious record to prove both your child’s age and identity, or you can use a birth certificate to prove both age and citizenship. Make sure to verify documents with the Social Security Administration before moving to step 3 below.
Finally, you will need to verify your identity and relationship with your child. The document needs to show your name and photo, such as a driver’s license, state ID card, or U.S. passport. To verify your relationship, the birth certificate above will be enough, but you can use an adoption decree or court order of patronage, too (depending on your relationship with the child).
Step 3: Complete Application
Next, you will need to complete an application for a new Social Security card. You can fill out the form and sign it on behalf of your underage child as long as he or she is under 18 years old.
Once you put this form together with your gathered documents, you can move to step 4.
Step 4: Submit
You will need to take your application for a replacement card (along with your and your child’s documents) to your local Social Security office or mail it. It’s important to note that you cannot complete your child’s application online, though you can request an adult card online.
If you visit a few minutes before your local Social Security office opens, you could be in and out in as little as 15 minutes. Wait times will be longer later in the day.
Mailing an application is riskier. You may want to visit in person to avoid essential documents (like your child's passport and birth certificate) getting lost in the mail. If you do choose to mail your child’s application, these documents will be mailed back to you.
Ultimately, you can expect your child’s card in your mailbox within seven to 15 days.
What if My Child Doesn’t Have a Card?
You can follow these steps to file for a new card if your child doesn’t already have a card.
Keep in mind that children over 12 years of age need to appear to the Social Security office in person for an interview.
How Can I Prevent Fraud?
Here are some tips you can use to secure your child’s identity now and into the future. Here are some tips:
- Never carry your child’s card in your wallet. Keep everyone’s Social Security card along with other necessary documents at home or in a safety deposit box at a bank. It’s a good idea to use a water and fireproof lockbox to make sure these documents stay safe in an emergency if you keep it at home.
- Keep your child’s Social Security number on a separate piece of paper. Write down the number and put it in your lockbox just so you have the number handy.
- Don’t give out your child’s (or your own) Social Security number unless you absolutely have to. It might surprise you to know that most medical offices, hospitals, and schools don’t need your child’s Social Security number. Remember, once you give out your number, it’s more challenging to protect it.
- Shred important documents. It’s not uncommon for thieves to look through landfills or your dumpster for personal information.
- Periodically check your child’s credit report (or make sure he or she doesn’t have one). Your child shouldn’t have a credit report until he takes out his first school loan, apartment, or line of credit. It’s a good idea, especially as your child grows, to check his credit report. Experian offers a free one-time scan of your child’s Social Security number.
- Prepare for the future: All of these steps above are an important way to prepare for the uncertainty of tomorrow. Whether you honor someone's life with a virtual GatheringUs celebration or you create a clear guardianship and estate plan, it's important to look ahead.
Plan for Your Child’s Future
Keeping your child’s Social Security number secure is an important step toward keeping his or her benefits safe — like Social Security benefits for his or her future family. Children grow up fast, and it's important to think about his or her later-in-life experiences, too.
It’s never too early to plan well for yourself as well. Cake can help you store your will, name an estate beneficiary, and secure your legal documents safely online. Cake’s free online profile ensures that all of your end-of-life resources are in one place so you won’t have to worry about replacing a lost document ever again.
- “How do I replace a Social Security card for a child?” Social Security Administration. www.FAQ.SSA.gov.
- “Child Identity Fraud Hit More Than One Million U.S. Victims in 2017” Javelin Strategy & Research group. www.javelinstrategy.com/node/59561
- “U.S. Citizen/Child — Replacement Social Security Card” Social Security Administration. www.ssa.gov