change social security number

How to change your Social Security Number

After seeing their Social Security Number (SSN) leaked in the AT&T breach, some US citizens are wondering if and how they can change their SSN.

The good news is that even though it’s a challenging process, it is possible. But if you’ve ever had to abandon an email address that you used for years, imagine all of the hassle that came with that, and then imagine it being about 10 times worse. Governments, your employer, and everyone else that identifies who you are by your SSN will have to be notified. And since it doesn’t happen very often, most of them will not have a streamlined process in place. It will take a lot of time and effort to set every record straight.

All that said, this process is not impossible, and in some cases, it is worth the effort.

When do I qualify?

The first obstacle will be to qualify for a change of your SSN in the first place. You will have to show that you:

  • Are the victim of identity theft. Importantly, even if this is true, the US government requires that you first have “attempted to fix problems resulting from the misuse,” but that you’re still encountering issues because of your original SSN. If someone is using your Social Security number for work purposes, you report it to the Social Security Administration (SSA) first. If someone is using your number to open lines of credit, you’ll need to go to to report it and establish a recovery plan. If those options didn’t help, then you can apply for a new SSN.
  • Were issued a duplicate number or you and a family member have sequential numbers that are causing problems.
  • Are facing a serious threat to your safety, like severe harassment, abuse, or potential life endangerment.
  • Have religious or cultural objections to the particular number you received. You’ll need to provide documentation from the group you belong to that affirms your objection.

Where do I start?

The first step is to contact your local Social Security office. Under normal circumstances, you will have to pay them a personal visit after making an appointment. They will perform all the required checks and assist you in drafting a statement explaining why you need a new number, and fill out an application for a new SSN.

You will need to bring:

Evidence of your age. This is usually a birth certificate, but in some cases, alternatives are allowed, such as a US hospital record of your birth, a religious record established before age 5 showing your age or date of birth, a passport, or a final adoption decree showing the birth information taken from the original birth certificate.

Evidence of identity. A US passport, US driver’s license or state-issued non-driver identity card satisfy this requirement. Alternatives that may be accepted are a US military identity card, a certificate of naturalization, employee identity card, a certified copy of medical record, health insurance card, Medicaid card, or school identity card/record.

Evidence of US citizenship or immigration status. A US birth certificate or US passport are standard for this requirement. Accepted alternatives may be Consular Report of Birth, Certificate of Citizenship, or Certificate of Naturalization.

For all these documents, US citizens will need to show original documents (or documents certified by the issuing agency).

US immigrants requesting a new SSN will need to provide evidence of immigration status by showing an unexpired document issued by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and additional documents if you are an international student or exchange visitor.

And you will need to provide evidence for the reason you need a new SSN.


Once you have successfully changed your SSN, here is a non-exhaustive list of entities that need to be informed:

  • The IRS.
  • Your employer.
  • Your bank. 
  • Your school.
  • Your student loan provider.
  • Your Medicare or Medicaid provider.
  • Any primary care doctors or specialists with your medical records.
  • Third-party insurance companies.

What you will not have achieved is also important to know. A Social Security number change doesn’t erase your financial history. So, a new SSN doesn’t absolve you of any debts you have, rectify your credit history, or repair a bad credit score.

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Pieter Arntz

Malware Intelligence Researcher

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books.