The first Social Security card applications were issued in November 1936. The cards were established to register individuals for potential benefits after the signing of the Social Security Act, by President Roosevelt, in 1935. The card has become an important document used to establish identity and citizenship. If you have lost your Social Security card, you should take several steps to protect your identity.

The Process

While the Social Security Administration allows you to replace your lost or stolen card, the administration does not require it. You are permitted three replacement cards in a one-year period and 10 replacement cards in your lifetime. These restrictions do not include legal name changes and significant hardships.

The replacement card process is free of charge. If you require a replacement card, you must submit Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. This form must be signed, dated and presented along with documents confirming your identity and U.S. citizenship. Verification documents include a U.S. issued drivers' license, state identification card or U.S. issued passport. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must show that you are lawfully authorized to work in the U.S. These applications can be completed in your local Social Security Office or mailed to your local office location.

Check with your local office before sending documents as some locations require an in-person visit. You will receive your replacement Social Security card in the mail four to six weeks after processing. Cards are never issued by local offices. If you require immediate proof of your valid Social Security card, visit your local Social Security office to submit your application. The representative will provide you with an authorized document which can be used as a temporary card replacement.

Protect Yourself

Take steps to protect yourself from misuse of your information. The Social Security Administration works along with the Federal Trade Commission to fight identity theft. If you are a victim of identity theft, file separate complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Verify your Social Security records and calculated income totals. Monitor your credit reports for at least a 12-month period. Consider reviewing your reports every three months. These steps will help you to ensure that you identity is not being used fraudulently. If you do find fraudulent activity, file another complaint with the FTC. Contact the three credit reporting agencies to advise them of the activity.