Why shouldn’t you carry your Social Security card with you?

Many people carry their Social Security card in their wallet as a form of identification. However, there are important reasons why you should not carry your Social Security card with you unless absolutely necessary.

Why shouldn't you carry your Social Security card with you?

Risk of Identity Theft

Carrying your Social Security card increases the risk of identity theft if you were to lose your wallet. Identity thieves can use your Social Security number to open fraudulent credit cards or other accounts. This can severely damage your finances and credit rating.

High Value for Identity Thieves

Your Social Security number is very valuable for identity thieves. It is tied to so much of your personal information and cannot easily be changed like other account numbers if compromised. If someone obtains your Social Security card, they have basically hit the jackpot in terms of stealing your identity. This can allow them to impersonate you and commit all types of fraud.

Difficult to Detect Identity Theft

Many times victims do not even realize their identity has been stolen right away. If you carry your card with you everywhere, a thief could snap a quick picture of the card with their phone without you noticing. Weeks or months could go by before you realize your identity was stolen after the fact.

Possibility of Card Damage

Carrying a Social Security card in your wallet also increases the chance of damaging the card. Over time, the ink could rub off, especially on older cards with raised text rather than smooth printing. Or the card itself could get scratched, bent or torn.

If your Social Security card becomes damaged, getting a replacement card can be inconvenient. You may need to apply in person and verify several forms of identification.

Table showing documentation needed for a replacement Social Security card:

Document Type Examples
Proof of U.S. Citizenship U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport
Proof of Identity Driver’s license, State ID
Proof of Legal Name Change Marriage certificate, Divorce decree

When You Need Your Social Security Card

Despite the risks of carrying it with you daily, there are still times when you need access to the original card.

Employment Eligibility Verification

When starting a new job, employers are required to verify your eligibility to work in the United States. Many employers will ask to see your Social Security card, along with other documents, to prove your work authorization as well as your legal name.

You should carry the card just for this purpose, then promptly secure it again afterwards. Make sure to store it somewhere safe but accessible at home so that future employers can verify it over the years whenever needed.

Tax Purposes

In certain tax situations, the IRS may request your Social Security number verification, often in the form of presenting the actual card. For example, the IRS requires taxpayers who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to confirm their legal name and SSN.

Similarly, financial institutions require verification of your Social Security number when opening new accounts to fulfill IRS reporting requirements. This ensures proper tax documentation.

Government Program Enrollment

Some government benefit programs also require verifying your name and Social Security number with the card upon application and enrollment. For example, applicants for Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), and other federal or state assistance programs often need to verify their identities.

Best Practices for Securing Your Card

Instead of carrying your Social Security card in your wallet or purse every day, it’s best to secure it at home. Follow these best practices to keep your card protected:

  • Store in a safe lockbox or file cabinet: Keep your card someplace secure like a lockbox that only you have access to. A fireproof document safe is best to also protect it from disasters.
  • Don’t carry it unless absolutely necessary: Only take it out for the purposes listed above like starting a new job or applying for government benefits that require verification. Carry a photocopy if you’re concerned about needing it.
  • Don’t take photos with your phone: Never take photos of your Social Security card. That creates copies that could be hacked.
  • Review your credit reports annually: Stay vigilant by checking your credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion once per year. Look for any fraudulent accounts opened in your name.


Your Social Security number is critical personal information that is valuable for identity thieves if compromised. While frustrating, limiting access to your card reduces risks like identity theft. Only carry your original card when absolutely necessary for important purposes, and even then, promptly secure it again afterwards. With vigilance, you can protect yourself.

Key Takeaway

Only carry your Social Security card when required and store it securely at home otherwise to minimize the risk of identity theft. Review credit reports annually and check for fraudulent activity. Report concerns over your Social Security number’s safety to the Social Security Administration.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I laminate my Social Security card for protection when I carry it?
    No, you should not laminate your Social Security card. Laminated cards are not accepted for employment eligibility verification or other formal purposes. Keep your card safe at home instead.
  1. Is making a photocopy of my card a good idea if I need it while out?
    Photocopying can help for records but still risks security. Anyone finding the copy could use it fraudulently. Secure your actual card at home whenever possible and only carry photocopies if essential.
  1. What’s the penalty for unlawfully possessing someone else’s Social Security Number card?
    Unlawfully possessing someone else’s Social Security card is considered a felony with fines up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years for anyone committing SSN fraud.
  1. What should I do if my Social Security card is lost or stolen?
    Contact the Social Security Administration immediately if your card is lost or stolen. Report the missing card so they can monitor your SSN for suspicious fraudulent activity. You can then apply for a replacement.
  1. How long does it take to get a duplicate Social Security card?
    It usually takes about 2 weeks after applying in-person for your replacement Social Security card to arrive in the mail once approved, sometimes faster if urgent.
  1. Where is the Social Security Number printed on cards issued before 1972?
    On older Social Security cards issued before 1972, the full 9-digit SSN is printed on the front while the back is blank. Newer cards show only the last 4 digits on the front and print the full number on the back.
  1. Can someone legally ask to see or make copies of my Social Security card?
    It’s illegal for private businesses to require your Social Security card, except for federal law purposes like employment eligibility verification. Government agencies sometimes require verification for administering programs.
  1. Is carrying a Social Security card required while traveling?
    No, it is not recommended to carry your Social Security card while traveling domestically or internationally. Bring other common IDs instead for hotels and transportation like a driver’s license or passport.
  1. What ID can I use instead if asked for my Social Security card?
    If asked for your SSN, provide your Social Security number rather than showing the card. Show another photo ID like a passport, state ID or your birth certificate that has your name and birthdate.
  1. Are Social Security Numbers reused after someone dies?
    No, the Social Security Administration does not reuse Social Security numbers after someone dies. SSNs are permanently retired from circulation once associated with a deceased individual.
  1. Can someone have the same SSN as me?
    No two people can validly have the same currently issued Social Security number. However, some rare cases of duplicate SSNs did occur many decades ago before modern database practices.
  1. What does the first group of Social Security number digits represent?
    The first three digits in your SSN signify the state it was issued from and generally when you obtained the SSN. Higher numbered areas received more recent batches of card allotments.
  1. If asked for my SSN card while job hunting, can I show other documents instead?
    When starting work, employers need to document your SSN for federal forms. But the card itself is not absolutely required; other proofs like W-2 tax forms may substitute.
  1. Is a Social Security card considered a national ID card for Americans?
    No. Social Security cards are not a formal national identification card for US citizens like some countries issue. Cards don’t confirm citizenship, only the SSN holder’s work authorization.
  1. Are Social Security numbers reused once someone dies?
    No, the SSA permanently retires Social Security numbers from active use once the original cardholder passes away. This prevents potential confusion or fraud using a deceased person’s identity.
  1. Can non-citizens or immigrants get U.S. Social Security numbers and cards?
    Yes, non-citizens can obtain Social Security numbers if legally allowed to work in the U.S. either permanently or under temporary statuses like exchange visitors, student visas or work authorizations.
  1. How can I check if my Social Security number was stolen?
    Checking your annual credit report is the best way to detect if someone fraudulently used your SSN. Unusual credit applications made in your name indicate potential financial identity theft.
  1. What government agency should concerns about Social Security number fraud be reported to?
    Contact the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov as well as your local police department to report unauthorized use of your SSN or suspected identity theft. Also contact the Social Security Administration.
  1. Where can I get more information about Social Security card application rules?
    Visit the Official Social Security Administration website at SSA.gov for details on applying for replacement Social Security cards as well as Social Security number eligibility rules.
  1. What identity documents other than Social Security cards do identity thieves target the most?
    Passports, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, military ID cards and other documents showing your personal details are all useful for financial identity theft and frequently targeted by criminals. Secure all sensitive documents.

Leave a Comment