Getting a Replacement Number

by Chris Hibbert

last modified October 9, 2000

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will occasionally issue a replacement SSN. The most common justification is that the SSA or the IRS has mixed together earnings records from more than one person, and since one of the people can't be located, it's necessary to issue a new number to the other. The SSA tries very hard to contact the person who is using the number incorrectly before resorting to this process.

The SSA used to be willing to issue new numbers to people whose numbers contained the sequences 666 or 13. You didn't have to prove that you had sincere religious objections. This reason is apparently not being accepted any more. I've been told that the 6/95 versions of the guildelines omits this section.

Other commonly accepted complaints include that someone who is harassing you is tracing you through your SSN, sequential numbers were assigned to family members, or there was a serious impact on your credit history that you've tried to clear up without success.

In all cases, the process includes an in-person interview at which you have to establish your identity and show that you are the original assignee of the number. The decision is normally made in the local office. If the problem is with a credit bureau's records, you have to show that someone else continues to use your number, and that you tried to get the credit bureau to fix your records but were not successful. When they do issue a new number, the new records are linked to the old ones. (Unless you can convince them that your life might be endangered by such a link.)

There are a few justifications that they don't accept at all: attempting to avoid legal responsibilities, poor credit record which is your own fault, lost SSN card (without evidence that someone else has used it), or use of the number by government agencies or private companies.

The only justification the SSA accepts for cancelling the issuance of an SSN is that the number was assigned under their Enumeration at Birth (wherein SSNs are assigned when birth certificates are issued) program without the parent's consent. In this case, the field officer is instructed to try very hard to convince the parent that getting the number revoked is futile, but to give in when the parent is persistent.

My information on this subject comes from a document (dated 1990) which is available at US government documentary depositories. Major cities have a Depository Library, often at a university. The document title is Program Operations Manual (POMS). It's in Part 1 (Records Maintenance), Chapter 2 (The Social Security Number), subchapter 5 (Resolving Problems). Sections 20-45 of that subchapter gives the rules and procedures for assigning a new number. The SSA cites this reference as SSA BASIC (TN 13) Pub. No. 60-0100201, POMS, RM 00205.020-045. It was shelved at HE3.65 01/002/01 at my local university library.

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