Can (and Should) You Get a New Social Security Number

Banks Editorial Team · November 17, 2017

 

This number is like your financial fingerprint—but here’s why you might need to ditch it

In the U.S. a Social Security number is almost like a part of your body, as it pretty much goes with you everywhere. This piece of personal data is a required part of many routine tasks, especially those related to financial matters. It’s also totally individual. Whereas someone else may have the same name as you, only you have that exact number. It’s as unique as your fingerprints. It’s also just as permanent, in most cases. Once you get a Social Security number, you are usually stuck with it for life.

However, there are some situations where you might want—or need—to get a new Social Security number.

The caveat: this isn’t a shortcut for instant credit repair. If you have bad credit and are thinking that a new Social Security number is a great way to get a new start with a fresh number, you can stop right there. Unfortunately, that plan won’t work. (If it were that easy, everyone with bad credit would just continuously do a “reset” and keep starting over.)

There’s a lot of red tape involved with getting a new Social Security number and, not surprisingly, the government tries to avoid going through the process unless absolutely necessary.

Why you might get a new number

You can apply to request a new number if you are the victim of identity theft that has reached extreme levels or if someone is using your number to impersonate you or commit criminal acts.

The Social Security Administration will also consider providing a new number in cases of domestic abuse or harassment, or in situations where a person has religious or cultural objections to specific digits in the original number they were given. Certain types of documentation may be required, depending on the circumstances.

On the other hand, the SSA specifically states that you cannot request a new number just because your Social Security card was lost or stolen, or to avoid filing for bankruptcy. The agency also watches out for people who try to use this as a maneuver to avoid the law or dodge some type of legal responsibility.

Not necessarily a cure-all

While a new Social Security number may help alleviate some of your issues, it often isn’t a complete fresh start—and may even create some new headaches. As the Federal Trade Commission points out, many businesses or government agencies may still maintain records under your old number, so it likely will continue to be linked to you for quite some time in certain places. On the other hand, since creditors research your financial history using your Social Security number, the lack of a track record with your new number may cause difficulties if you try to obtain credit until you can establish a financial history with your new number.

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