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What Do Social Security Cards Look Like

Types Of Social Security Cards

Your Social Security Card is Insecure

Four different classifications of Social Security cards are issued. Such cards are issued by geographic location to:

  • persons of natural birth within the territorial boundaries of any one of the member States of the United States of America
  • persons who become U.S. citizens by oath, or birth within the exclusive legislative or territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. government
  • persons who become U.S. permanent residents
  • persons with certain restrictions.
  • There are two restricted types of Social Security cards:

    • One reads “not valid for employment.” Such cards cannot be used as proof of work authorization, and are not acceptable as a List C document on the I-9 form.
    • The other reads “valid for work only with DHS authorization”, or the older, “valid for work only with INS authorization.” These cards are issued to people who have temporary work authorization in the U.S from the Department of Homeland Security — the nation’s border agency. They can satisfy the I-9 requirement, if they are accompanied by a work authorization card.

    The cards commonly display the cardholder’s name and number.

    The new SSN card design utilizes both covert and overt security features created by the SSA and GPO design teams.

    How Does It Work

    The federal benefits are paid directly to your card on your monthly payment date. You wont have to wait for a check to arrive in the mail. If you have another bank account, you can transfer the funds to it, but you’ll pay a $1.50 fee for each transfer to a U.S. bank account. If you already have a bank account with a debit card, enrolling in direct deposit may a better option.

    Your card comes with a personal identification number that you use to authorize transactions or withdrawals. You can also have your transactions processed as “credit” rather than “debit,” which means you sign for purchases instead, as you would with a credit card. The funds are still deducted from your balance, even when you choose the credit option.

    Purchases, withdrawals, and transaction fees are deducted from your balance. Once youve spent all of the funds on the card, youll be unable to use it until you receive your next months benefits.

    You can be assured that your money is safe: the funds in your account are FDIC-insured up to the legal limit.

    A Snapshot Of Social Security

    But keep in mind that these projections are exactly that… projections. Though the Trustees have been relatively accurate with their prognostications over time, they’re not perfect. Federal policy, mortality and birth rates, interest rates, and even economic growth can impact the Trustees’ outlook for Social Security 10, 20, or even 75 years from now.

    If you want concrete facts about Social Security, we have to stick with the present. Here’s a roundup of what America’s most important social program looks like today.

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    What Is A Social Security Card

    Your Social Security card is an important piece of identification. You’ll need one to get a job, collect Social Security, or receive other government benefits.

    When you apply for a Social Security number , the Social Security Administration will assign you a nine-digit number. This is the same number that is printed on the Social Security card that SSA will issue you. If you change your name, you will need to get a corrected card.

    How Is Social Security Currently Funded

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    Every year, when the Trustees release their annual report, we’re able to take a closer look at how the program derives its funding. In 2016 , $836.2 billion of the $957.5 billion collected came from Social Security’s 12.4% payroll tax on wage income. Today, this payroll tax is applicable on earned income between $0.01 and $128,400. It’s this tax that ensures Social Security can never go bankrupt. As long as people keep working, payroll tax revenue keeps getting collected and funneled into the Social Security program for disbursement.

    The lesser two funding mechanisms were the interest earned on the Trust’s asset reserves , and the taxation of Social Security benefits . Yes, Social Security may indeed be taxable at the federal level, and in 13 states, to some varying degree. Over time, interest income is expected to wane as the program’s asset reserves decline. Meanwhile, the aggregate amount collected by the taxation of benefits and the payroll tax should continue to increase, more years than not.

    Image source: Getty Images.

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    Ssns Used In Advertising

    Some SSNs used in advertising have rendered those numbers invalid. One famous instance of this occurred in 1938 when the E. H. Ferree Company in Lockport, New York, decided to promote its product by showing how a Social Security card would fit into its wallets. A sample card, used for display purposes, was placed in each wallet, which was sold by Woolworth and other department stores across the country the wallet manufacturer’s vice president and treasurer Douglas Patterson used the actual SSN of his secretary, Hilda Schrader Whitcher.

    Even though the card was printed in red and had “specimen” printed across the front, many people used Whitcher’s SSN as their own. The Social Security Administration’s account of the incident also claims that the fake card was half the size of a real card, despite a miniature card being useless for its purpose and despite Whitcher’s holding two cards of apparently identical size in the accompanying photograph. Over time, the number that appeared has been claimed by a total of over 40,000 people as their own. The SSA initiated an advertising campaign stating that it was incorrect to use the number . However, the number was found to be in use by 12 individuals as late as 1977.

    More recently, Todd Davis distributed his SSN in advertisements for his company’s LifeLock identity theft protection service, which allowed his identity to be stolen over a dozen times.

    Who Is Eligible For The Social Security Debit Card

    Anyone who receives Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits is eligible to use this card.

    Because its a prepaid debit card, you can only use your Direct Express Social Security debit card if you have funds in your account. Once youve spent or withdrawn your entire account balance, youll have to wait for your next monthly disbursement to use your card again.

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    Getting A Replacement Social Security Card Online: Extra Requirements

    Yes, you can request a replacement Social Security card online if you are a U.S. citizen age 18 or older with a U.S. mailing address. You must also have a driver’s license or a state-issued identification card from one of these states. If you meet those requirements, you can set up an account on the SSA site to request a replacement card.

    How Do Benefits Work And How Can I Qualify

    Your Social Security Card is a Credit Card!?

    While you work, you pay Social Security taxes. This tax money goes into a trust fund that pays benefits to:

    • Those who are currently retired
    • To people with disabilities
    • To the surviving spouses and children of workers who have died

    Each year you work, youll get credits to help you become eligible for benefits when its time for you to retire. Find all the benefits Social Security Administration offers.

    There are four main types of benefits that the SSA offers:

    • Learn about earning limits if you plan to work while receiving Social Security benefits

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    What If My Social Security Card Was Stolen

    If the reason you are replacing or asking for a new social security card is that it was stolen, there are various measures you should take rapidly to mitigate your risk of identity theft.

    These measures are necessary to avoid the use of your social security number to open new credit accounts in your name without your knowledge if it falls into the wrong hands. These measures include:

    Can’t Find Your Social Security Card Here’s How To Request A New One

    If you’ve lost your Social Security card or changed your name recently, you’ll need to replace it as soon as possible.

    Katie Teague


    Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.

    Your Social Security number is needed for a number of things in life to confirm your identity. For instance, when you apply for a new credit card, file your taxes or if you need to verify your identity online. You need your physical Social Security card much less frequently, usually for situations like starting a new job — or if you don’t yet have your number memorized. So if you don’t have it when you need it, you could be in trouble.

    If you’ve misplaced your Social Security card or have recently changed your name, you can get a new one. But how you do it depends on whether you need a new one with updated information or a replacement without any changes.

    We’ll tell you what you need to get a new Social Security card for either situation. For more, here’s when it’s OK to give out your Social Security number. While you’re here, check out these identity theft protection and monitoring services.

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    Social Security Cards: Documents Required To Obtain A Social Security Number And Card Or A Replacement Card

    Local Social Security offices are offering more in-person appointments and have resumed in-person service for people without an appointment. It is strongly encouraged to continue to go online, call for help, and schedule appointments in advance.

    For more information on How to Get Help from Social Security, visit the website:

    Link to the Social Security Administration website: www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.


    To Obtain a New Social Security Number and Card you will need to provide at least two documents to prove age, identity, and U.S. citizenship or current immigration status.

    The new online service allows individuals to get replacement Social Security cards through the Social Security Administration website at: www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber

    To Obtain a Replacement Card, if lost or stolen, you must prove your identity and U.S. citizenship.

    To prove identity: Social Security must see:

    • U.S. drivers license or
    • State-issued non-driver identity card or

    If you do not have these specific documents or cannot get a replacement for them within ten days, Social Security will ask to see other documents, such as:

    • Employee ID card
    • Letter from doctor, with your name, address, social security number and doctors name, address, and signature

    To Prove Age: Social Security must see:

    To prove U.S. citizenship: Under recent changes in law, only certain documents can be accepted as proof of U.S. citizenship. These include:

    Replacing Your Social Security Card Online

    Social Security Card Looks Like It Was Cut Out Of A Cereal

    To request a replacement card online, you must have a My Social Security account and meet these requirements:

    • You are a U.S. citizen age 18 or older.
    • You are not changing the name on the card.
    • You have a U.S. mailing address .
    • You live in a state that shares its computer data with Social Security. As of April 2022, 46 states and the District of Columbia do so. The list is updated regularly, so check the Social Security website to see if your state’s status has changed.

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    Reporting Possible Social Security Fraud

  • 1Gather the necessary information. If you believe that someone is using a fake social security card or number to work or obtain benefits, you can report that individual to the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration. Before you make such a report, however, it is necessary to gather certain information so that the SSA can make the most of your report.XResearch source
  • You will want to compile a list of the suspect’s name, address, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and the social security number they are using. The more information you can provide, the better.
  • It will also be helpful to detail the circumstances of the fraud, including a basic description of what took place along with when and where the violation occurred.
  • 2Report the violation to the SSA. The SSA provides an online form you can use to submit a report of a person using a fake social security card or number. You can also reach the SSA by phone, mail, or fax. All of this information is available on the portion of the SSA’s website dedicated to reporting fraud.XResearch source
  • You have the option of remaining anonymous when reporting a social security violation.XResearch source Your identity will only be released to relevant officials on a need-to-know basis. However, the SSA warns that remaining anonymous may hamper its ability to conduct a thorough investigation.
  • You will not be updated on the status of your report unless the SSA has need to question you directly.XResearch source
  • List Of Social Security Area Numbers

    List showing the geographical location of the first three digits of the Social Security numbers assigned in the United States and its territories from 1973 until June 25, 2011. Repeated numbers indicate that they have been transferred to another location or they’re shared by more than one location.

    On June 25, 2011, the SSA changed the SSN assignment process to “SSN randomization”. SSN randomization affects the SSN assignment process. Among its changes, it eliminates the geographical significance of the first three digits of the SSN, previously referred to as the Area Number, by no longer allocating the Area Numbers for assignment to individuals in specific states.

    SSN area number
    • Philippine Islands
    • Northern Mariana Islands

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    Visit The Local Ssa Office

    You can visit a nearby SSA office, print out, and give them your application and original documents.

    If finding a local SSA office close to you seems difficult, then you can try filling out the online application and the site will direct you to a page where you can find the closest SSA office in your area.

    Protect Yourself Going Forward

    What is my Social Security?

    Once you’ve followed all the steps to get your replacement Social Security card, it’s wise to take action to protect yourself. You may have received a new physical card, but your Social Security number will remain unchanged, and anyone who comes into possession of your old card can use it to commit fraud. This may mean staying diligent about what’s on your credit report for years to come.

    The good news is there’s a lot you can do to prevent your Social Security card from being used nefariously. In addition to taking steps to protect your identity, make sure your new card is stored safely and securely and only leaves your home or safety deposit box when absolutely necessary. Losing possession of your Social Security card can be a nerve-wracking experience, but you’ve got tools at your disposal to make sure it’s replaced quickly and your identity is protected for years to come.

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    How Do Social Security Numbers Work

    Social security numbers are used by almost all U.S. citizens, permanent residents, temporary or working residents, and even non-working residents due to their usefulness to businesses, organizations, and government entities.

    The social security administration is responsible for issuing social security numbers.

    In 2011, social security numbers were not random streams of digits like they are now. Then, the first three digits represented the location or area in which you were born or came from. The next set of numbers represents the year or month of your birth.

    During this time, there was concern about this method being falsified. The social security administration, therefore, voted to have it represent a group of numbers.

    As of now, theres no record of any social security numbers being reused, although, there have been instances in which two persons were issued the same number.

    Replacing Your Card By Mail Or In Person

    If you dont have an online account or dont meet any one of the other criteria listed above, youll have to fill out an application form and either mail it or take it to your local Social Security office.

    Local offices fully reopened April 7 after being closed to walk-in traffic for more than two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Social Security Administration recommends calling in advance and scheduling an appointment to avoid long waits.

    Youll need to provide what the SSA calls “primary” proof of identity either a passport, a drivers license or a state-issued photo ID card. If you dont have any of those, Social Security will ask to see a current, secondary ID that shows your name identifying information such as age or date of birth and, preferably, a recent photograph for example, an employee, student or U.S. military ID or a health insurance card .

    Social Security typically requires the original of your primary ID document, or a copy certified by the agency that issued it. Photocopies, even if notarized, are not accepted.

    However, the SSA advises against mailing original primary documents that should be kept secure in your possession. As an alternative, you may send secondary evidence of identity, or contact your local office about dropping off your evidence or making an appointment. Social Security will return any documents you do submit once they process your new card.

    Keep in mind

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    How To Replace A Social Security Card

    Quick Answer

    In this article:

    If your Social Security card is lost or stolen, you can replace it for free through the Social Security Administration website, by visiting a local SSA office or through the mail. If you don’t need a card right away and you know your number, you may not want to go to the trouble, because you are not required to have an actual Social Security card.

    You are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime, but there are some exceptions. For example, if you have a legal name change, this does not count toward the limit neither do changes in immigration status that require card updates.

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