It seems like one of those carved-in-stone types of things -- your Social Security number is burned into existence and it is your defining serial number for the rest of your life. But you can, in fact, get a new one, it just can’t be something you do on a whim.
If you have legitimate concerns or reasons, there are steps you can take to get yourself a new set of digits.
When You Might Need A New SS#
The most common reasons for needing a replacement Social Security number involve some kind of threat to your personal well being. A number can be changed if someone is experiencing harassment, is the victim of abuse, or otherwise feel their life may be in danger. It can also be issued in cases of identity theft or misuse. According to the U.S. Social Security Commission official site, you must be in a situation where the misuse of your identity is “causing you significant continuing harm.”
There's no fee attached to requesting a new number but the one caveat is that receiving a new Social Security number does not wipe your slate clean and give you a fresh start. Older records attached to your original number will still be kept on file, including on credit reports. So you will likely still need to refer back to your original number and may still receive reports or updates pegged to it even after your number has been changed.
What You’ll Need
The process involves -- naturally -- a lot of paperwork, but the primary pieces of information you’ll need are your age, proof of citizenship or lawful immigration status, and some other proof of your identity (beyond your Social Security card, of course).
For age, you can submit a birth certificate, religious records (such as baptism certificate), a passport, or a final adoption decree. Proof of citizenship or lawful immigration can be proven with a U.S. passport, birth certificate, or Department of Homeland Security forms I-551, I-94, or I-766. Finally, you can reaffirm your identity with a U.S. driver’s license, a state-issued ID card, or a passport.
The application is available online and can be submitted electronically.
Other Options & Additional Info
Once again, there’s no cost attached to submitting the paperwork and it can all be done online. There are services that claim to be able to take care of all the paperwork and follow up for a small fee, but you would have to research them (and it’s recommended you do so, thoroughly) before deciding if that’s worth your time and money.
For those who don’t need to get a new number but want to monitor your current Social Security benefits, view statements and earning history, as well as request a replacement card, you can create a “my Social Security” account here.