What to do if you lose your social security card, birth certificate and other proof of identity

Kathleen here from the AllClear ID Team.  While talking to my 14-year-old nephew this past weekend, he proudly showed off his first wallet. I was horrified to see that he had placed his Social Security card in the new billfold…because he was excited and didn’t have much else to put in there!  Shocked, I told him a few identity theft horror stories, which seemed to have no effect on him or the rest of my family, who had joined the conversation at this point. Most of them also said they keep their Social Security cards in their wallets (!).

Losing a Social Security card or any other piece of ID not only puts one in danger of identity theft, but replacing it can be understandably difficult.  There are obstacles in place to keep just anyone for applying for an ID, but unfortunately that can mean headaches if you are simply trying to replace yours in good faith. Here are some tips on safekeeping and replacing major forms of ID.

1). Social Security card: No matter what anyone tells you, leave your SS card at home.  Don’t bother making photocopies of it as some people suggest — no one will accept a photocopy of a social security card in lieu of the physical object, and you’ll possibly put yourself at risk if you lose track of the photocopies, which could make their way into the wrong hands. If your card has been stolen, report the theft at the Social Security Administration website.

Replacement: In order to replace your social security card, you’ll need proof of citizenship (usually a notarized birth certificate) and proof of identity. Proof of identity can be a passport, state driver’s license, or state identity card. You can see how losing your social security card along with your driver’s license in a wallet can make life complicated, right? You are only allowed 10 social security card replacements in a lifetime and no more than 3 in a calendar year.

2) State driver’s license or identification card: Luckily, driver’s license numbers are not used for identification purposes as often as social security numbers, so you’re not as at risk if your ID is stolen. But, you’ll be inconvenienced much sooner, since these IDs are more often required in day-to-day life. Driver’s licenses are required for everything from cashing checks to voting to age verification for buying alcohol or cigarettes.

Replacement: State policies vary as to the requirements for getting a replacement license or ID card.

3) Birth certificate: There are various times in your life when having a birth certificate is helpful, not to mention, you generally need a notarized copy of your birth certificate — not a photocopy — in order to get other forms of documentation (see replacing Social Security card above!). Otherwise, it’s a good idea to just have a copy stored in a safe place so you’ll always have it if needed.

Replacement: If you don’t have your original notarized copy, you’ll have to write to the records bureau in the state in which you were born. The Centers for Disease Control has links to all state bureaus for birth, death and marriage certificates. Generally, the bureau will want a driver’s license or other state or military-issued ID as proof of identity. Note that you will most likely have to pay a fee to get your certificate, which could take up to 15 days to be shipped.

4) Passport: Even if you’re not planning on leaving the country anytime soon, a passport is a handy alternate form of ID. Usually any requirements for identification list a passport as equivalent to a driver’s license or state ID, so having a passport is a helpful backup form of ID in the event that your wallet or purse are ever stolen. Passports are extremely valuable on the black market so make sure to safeguard this document — place alongside your social security card in a fireproof lockbox until an occasion when you need it.

Replacement: If your passport has been lost or stolen, you’ll need to fill out a form DS-64 at the Department of State site to record your loss.

Just reading this list should make it clear why keeping your important forms of ID together can present a danger. You can get into a vicious cycle with these forms of ID if you lose them all — you won’t be able to replace one without presenting another form of ID, which you can’t replace without showing proof of the first ID, and on and on…Leave unnecessary documents locked up safe at home, if you need to bring something special like a Social Security Card, Passport, or Birth Certificate, you will probably know in advance.