When Christie Pesicka heard that her son’s school district was mired in a ransomware attack, she knew what to expect.[*] A decade earlier, hackers had published her personal data online, putting her at risk of identity theft.
Cyberattacks like the one that ravaged her son’s school district can have lifelong consequences. Personal data about Christie’s son – including his Social Security number (SSN) – could easily have fallen into the wrong hands.
According to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research, 1.4 million children and teenagers had their identities stolen in 2021.[*] This kind of fraud can go unnoticed for years because children don’t typically need to check their credit histories until they go off to college or graduate school, or apply for their first job. By then, the damage may already be done.
That’s why parents need to be vigilant when children report losing SSN information or their physical Social Security cards.
Can You Replace Your Child’s Social Security Card Online?
No. The Social Security Administration (SSA) lets adults replace lost Social Security cards online, but not children. For minors, the process is a bit more complex. Parents and legal guardians can fill out an application on the child’s behalf and receive a new card in the mail.
However, your child’s new card will not come with a new number. Social Security numbers are assigned at birth and do not change, except under select circumstances.
The SSA will only agree to change your child’s Social Security number if you can demonstrate that the child is a victim of identity theft.
Even then, the SSA will ask you to try resolving any issues associated with the original number first. You will have to prove that despite these attempts, your child’s original number still puts them at a disadvantage.
Getting a new Social Security number is much more laborious than getting a new card. To start, you’ll have to make an in-person appointment with your local Social Security card center.
📌 Did you know? You can restrict access to your SSN by blocking electronic access or using E-Verify’s self-lock feature.
Three Steps To Replace Your Child’s Social Security Card
Find out whether you really need to get a replacement Social Security card in the first place. In most cases, simply knowing the number is good enough.
There are few instances in which your child will have to use their Social Security card as an identifying document. Most adults only need to show their physical card when they get a new job.
Keep in mind that having a new Social Security card won’t protect your child from identity theft. Since the number won’t change, the old card will still be valid.
If your child does need a new Social Security card, you can get one by following these steps:
1. Start gathering documents
You will have to prove your child’s identity to the SSA. This means you must provide evidence that attests to the child’s legal name, age, and U.S. citizenship. Parents of children born in the United States must provide two required documents:
- Your child’s birth certificate. This proves your child’s citizenship and age. But, it’s not a valid proof of identity on its own.
- Valid proof of identity. This could be a passport or a state or school-issued ID card. Medical, religious, or daycare records, and adoption decrees may also be accepted if they display the child’s date of birth and parents’ names.
If your child is a U.S. citizen born outside of the United States, you will need different documents. This includes any documents provided to you by the American consulate when you reported the birth, like the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240, CRBA).
If the child is not a U.S. citizen, you will have to produce appropriate immigration documents.
You will also have to prove your identity as a parent or legal guardian. The SSA will ask you to provide one of the following:
- Your U.S. driver’s license
- A state-issued non-driver’s identification card
- Your passport
- An employee ID card or health insurance card
- A Certificate of Naturalization
- A Certificate of Citizenship
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will have to verify your identity and immigration status to the SSA. This requires different documents, such as:
- I-551 permanent resident card
- I-94 arrival/departure record with a valid foreign passport
- I-766 work permit from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
2. Fill out the application form (Form SS-5)
The SSA accepts requests to replace Social Security cards with the SS-5 Form. Use this form to apply for an original card, replace a lost or stolen card, or change inaccurate information on your (or your child’s) Social Security record.
Applying for a new Social Security card is free. Every U.S. citizen can order up to three replacement Social Security cards per year, with a lifetime maximum of ten.
As a parent or legal guardian, you are entitled to complete this form on behalf of your child. The SSA also allows minors to sign for themselves if they can.
📚 Related: What To Do If Someone Has Your SSN →
3. Submit the completed application
Your application includes the SS-5 Form and all the required supporting documents. In general, the SSA wants to see the original documents, not photocopies. If you're uncomfortable sending these in the mail, submit your application in person at your local Social Security office.
Social Security card applications typically take 7–10 days to process. If the administration needs additional documentation from you or your child, processing times may stretch on.
Sometimes the process can take longer simply because administration staff have a backlog of cases to work through.
The SSA responds to every request and submission that it receives. If four weeks pass and you don’t receive a response, it’s possible your application was lost or misplaced. You’ll have to contact your local SSA office to find out what happened.
Use the SSA Office Locator to find the location closest to your zip code. If you live outside the United States, some American embassies are equipped to handle Social Security issues for U.S. citizens traveling abroad.
📌 Also note: The SSA may not accept notarized copies of documents. But you may be able to use certified copies from the issuing agency.
Was Your Child’s Social Security Card Stolen?
Most banks, institutions, and government agencies do not actually require people to show their SSA card. Anyone who knows your child’s Social Security number could potentially abuse it — whether they have the card or not. Thus, replacing your child’s Social Security card will not make your child any less susceptible to identity theft.
You may not immediately know if your child’s Social Security card was lost, misplaced, or stolen. If you believe that someone has unlawful access to your child’s Social Security number, look out for these signs of child identity theft:
- Receiving bills and credit card offers in your child’s name.
- Receiving phone calls from collection agencies asking for your child.
- Finding out your child is on record with a major credit reporting agency.
- Receiving notifications from the IRS in your child’s name.
- Receiving phone calls or emails with messages not appropriate to your child’s age.
What to do if your child is a victim of identity theft
If you suspect someone has used your child’s Social Security number to engage in fraud, you must act quickly. The longer that fraudulent activity goes on, the harder it is to resolve.
- The first thing to do is file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The easiest way to do this is through the FTC’s official website: IdentityTheft.gov. You may also wish to file a report with your local police department.
- Next, contact the Social Security Administration’s fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or via www.ssa.gov/fraud. This allows you to notify the SSA about alleged suspects and details of the fraud. The SSA will launch an internal investigation.
- If you have not already checked your child’s credit report, you should. Create an account for your child with one of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. They can set up a credit freeze that temporarily prevents new credit accounts from being opened in your child’s name.
- Be sure to contact the companies that used your child’s Social Security number. Each company will respond differently; many have identity theft policies in place.
- You may wish to sign up your child for additional credit monitoring services. Aura, for example, generates alerts each time there are changes to your child’s credit. If someone opens accounts in your child’s name, you will be notified.
You may need to keep credit monitoring active for a few years after you discover identity theft. This will help keep your child’s accounts safe after removing the credit freeze.
These steps are optional, but it’s highly recommended that you follow them before requesting a replacement Social Security card.
How to get a new Social Security number for your child
The SSA won’t consider assigning a new number until you and your child go through all the steps described above. Yet, it’s possible for identity thieves to continue opening accounts in your child’s name even after you’ve taken the right precautions.
If this happens, you may be able to convince the SSA to assign your child a completely new number. You will have to show that unauthorized activities continue to occur even after your attempts to secure your child’s identity.
You may also obtain a new Social Security number for your child if there is an imminent threat of personal harm. If identity thieves have threatened you or your child, the authorities will help you establish a new identity without putting your family in danger.
Protect Your Child’s Personal Information
Parents often need to share information about their children both online and offline. Websites and apps that target users under 13 years of age are regulated by the FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) rule. They must notify parents about how they use a child's personal data.
You may also be asked to provide your child’s Social Security number when visiting the doctor or enrolling in school.
Always pay attention to others who may have direct access to your child’s personal information. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports that 73% of child identity fraud victims know the perpetrator — such as a family member or close acquaintance.[*]
Only use your child’s Social Security number when necessary
According to the SSA, there are only a few cases in which sharing a child’s Social Security number is necessary:
- When claiming your child as a dependent on your tax return.
- When opening a bank account or buying savings bonds for your child.
- When filling out hospital record data or subscribing to health insurance.
- When applying for government services on your child’s behalf.
Offer alternate identification when possible
Most schools, hospitals, and other institutions let parents provide alternate identification for children. Applying for a U.S. passport for your child gives you the ability to prove your child’s identity without relying on their SSN.
Most organizations consider a passport sufficient to verify a child’s U.S. citizenship status. Passports don’t contain Social Security information, and they are much harder to counterfeit than Social Security cards.
Keep the original card safely stowed away
You almost never need to show a physical Social Security card to authorities. Children do not need to carry this card in their wallets like an ID — which just increases the risk of accidentally losing it.
The original card should be stored in a safe place along with other valuable identifying documents. Consider keeping the card wherever you keep your child’s U.S. birth certificate.
📚 Related: How Dangerous Is a Stolen (or Missing) Birth Certificate? →
Never share Social Security numbers by phone or email
No bank, hospital, or government agency will ask for Social Security information by phone or email. Be wary of anyone who claims to represent an institution through unsecured channels like these. If they are legitimate employees representing these institutions, they will have no trouble proving it.
Only share Social Security information on official forms and secure digital platforms. Most web browsers display a small lock icon next to the URL of secure websites.
This indicates that the website’s security certificate is valid. That doesn’t guarantee complete security, but it’s much better than sending sensitive data through unsecured email.
Be cautious when opening accounts in your child’s name
You will eventually want to open financial accounts in your child’s name. Some parents do this early on so that their children accumulate good credit by the time they reach adulthood.
To open any kind of account in your child’s name, you must share personal data. Most web apps and online communities require little more than an email address.
However, some can be intrusive, especially in the gaming and social media industries. Pay close attention to your children’s digital activities and the information that they share.
Pay even closer attention to institutional accounts opened in your child’s name. Banks let account holders set spending limits, and will send alerts about suspicious activity. Consider activating these security features on your child’s account.
Monitor your child’s social media usage
Identity thieves can find a wealth of valuable data on social media. Even seemingly harmless information can be harvested over time for identity theft. Your child’s network of friends, participation in afterschool activities, and location data can all play a part in these schemes.
Consider setting up supervised social media accounts for your children. Google, for example, requires users under the age of 13 to connect their accounts to adult supervisor accounts. This allows you to place restrictions on your child’s online activity.
Be aware that social media exposure goes beyond what your child posts or says online. It also includes things that other people — like friends, family members, or acquaintances — share on public networks.
📚 Related: How To Block Websites on iPhones and iPads [4 Ways] →
Use an SSN monitoring service
SSN monitoring providers like Aura scan credit reports and other data streams to identify when someone’s Social Security number is being used. This way, Aura can arm you with early warning signs of attempted identity theft and fraud.
For example, Aura may alert you that your child’s Social Security number is associated with another person’s name or mailing address. You can also receive notifications if your child’s SSN was used in a credit transaction or to send money via a wire transfer.
Aura can provide you with clear evidence that someone is fraudulently using your child’s Social Security number. Advance warning can give you the time you need to secure your child’s financial information even in the face of relentless criminal activity.