Lost or Stolen IDs: Complete Guide on What to Do

  • By David Lukic
  • Apr 12, 2022

Losing your ID or having it stolen can be a stressful situation. Unfortunately, the information on many IDs is enough for a criminal to steal your identity as well. Victims can face serious financial and reputational damage before they even notice a problem.

Thankfully, you can take steps to protect your private information, and if your identification is stolen or lost, you can quickly replace it and minimize the damage.

What is Lost or Stolen Identification?

Lost ID refers to a legal document that contains your personal information that could be used for identity theft. You might forget it at the gym, or it could fall out of your pocket at the gas station. A moment of carelessness is enough to jeopardize your identity.

Stolen ID refers to a situation when one of your legal documents that contain personally identifiable information (PII) is stolen to be used for fraud. This doesn’t always mean someone pickpocketing your wallet or stealing your passport at an airport.

Billing statements and property records also contain PII. If you’re disposing of these documents incorrectly, a determined criminal can easily get to them. Many states even accept electrical records and address history as proof of identity.

Some of the most common types of lost IDs or stolen IDs include:

Driver's License

Your driver's license is one of the most important pieces of ID you carry. It has a lot of information contained within it, and it could be compromised along with your lost wallet. One of the most common stolen ID cards is a driver's license. A missing driver's license can cause you a ton of headaches and turn you into a victim of identity theft.

To replace your driver's license, contact your local motor vehicle department’s office and fill out an application. You’ll have to pay a replacement fee and some locations may require an eye exam to confirm that you’re fit for the road.

Make sure to bring multiple forms of other identification with you. Nothing is worse than wasting an entire day waiting at the DMV because you didn’t bring the right documents. Most DMVs require two primary forms of ID (driver’s license, birth certificate, SSN card) or one primary ID with multiple secondary IDs.

U.S. Passport

A U.S. passport is necessary for international travel and to verify your identity in some situations. This critical document is an essential form of identification, and if stolen, it could allow an identity thief to commit fraud.

Parents must remember that their children are also targets. Even kids have passports when they travel internationally. Don’t leave them responsible for their IDs in a chaotic (and dangerous) place like the airport. Some criminals use a child’s information to fabricate identities since there’s no credit associated with them yet, and they have no criminal record. 

Contact the Department of State to replace your lost or stolen U.S. passport. The procedure will be similar to replacing your driver's license. You can also replace your passport by visiting a passport office (U.S. post office, clerk of court, or some libraries), filling out the paperwork, supplying the photos, and paying the fee.

Birth Certificate

A birth certificate is one of the first pieces of identification you receive. It verifies your birth, your age, and your parents. When you apply for a driver's license, passport, or other IDs, you typically have to show a copy of your birth certificate.

To get a copy of your birth certificate, you can contact your state vital records office or use the online service VitalChek for a replacement. You will have to verify your identity and pay a fee

stolen identification

Social Security Card

A social security card has your social security number on it, which is your unique identifier and a very vulnerable piece of ID if it falls into the hands of strangers. They can use your SSN to impersonate you and commit other types of fraud.

The good thing is that your SSN card isn’t something you need to carry around like a driver’s license. Presenting the physical SSN card isn’t necessary most of the time. It’s primarily used in first-time interactions like setting up a bank account. After that, just memorizing the number is enough.

Contact the Social Security Administration to replace your lost or stolen social security card. You will need to provide a copy of your birth certificate and possibly other types of photo ID.

Institutional & Private ID Cards

Companies and schools often issue students private ID cards. A stolen identification card could allow an intruder to access areas of a building that they would not be allowed in.

Depending on the security systems, an organization can trace a break-in back to your ID card. If a crime is committed, then you’d wind up in a bad position. If you lose an access card, it’s essential that you report it to management immediately.

Contact your school or work administrator to find out how to replace your private ID card.

Military and Veteran ID Cards

The military issues IDs to soldiers and the administration. A lost military identification card could put an entire military base and its employees at risk. Security on military bases is usually quite strict.

There are many advantages to Military Identification. Many businesses give special treatment to active and former service members, such as discounts or priority on waitlists. Criminals may abuse your status to access these benefits.

The military has its own rules about issuing IDs. Contact your supervisor to find out how to replace yours if it is stolen or lost.

Green Card, Visas, & Immigration IDs

When someone immigrates or visits the U.S., they are issued a temporary or permanent green card, visa, or other types of immigration ID. If they lose it or it is stolen, they could be stuck without a way to travel back home.

Fill out Form I-90 to replace your green card. It’s also known as the “Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.”

However, Form I-90 can only be filed by people already in the United States. This means that people studying or vacationing abroad will have to jump through a few more hoops to replace their green card.

If your green card is lost or stolen but not expired, then the best option is to visit the nearest United States embassy. They’ll lead you through the steps to get you home safely.

Most likely, you’ll get a “boarding foil” that proves the US government has allowed your travel back home. Just know that this comes with a hefty $500+ fine. Once you’re back in the US, you’re able to follow the normal procedure with  Form I-90.

You will need to contact the U.S. Immigration office and follow the procedures to replace your lost or stolen green card or visa.

Financial, IRS, & Medical Cards

Some people have other IDs issued to them, such as financial, IRS, or medical ID cards. These along with credit cards and debit cards can be a serious cause for concern if they are lost or stolen.

Contact the issuing agency or insurance company to request a copy of your stolen or lost ID.

What if I Lost ALL My Identification?

If you have lost all forms of identification by misplacing them, because of an accident, a natural disaster or because someone has stolen them, your first reaction is probably to panic and ask yourself “How can I get a photo ID fast?”.

Rest assured this can be resolved. The steps outlined in this straightforward guide will teach you how to replace your lost identification documents as well as your vital records easily while protecting yourself from identity theft.

While replacing a lost ID may seem daunting, there are just 5 simple steps you need to follow for replacing all your certified vital records, and getting your other IDs reissued to restore your identity.

social security card

What to Do if You Lost Your ID?

The last thing anyone wants to declare is, "I lost all my identification documents!" However, it could happen. If you lose one or all of your IDs, follow the steps below.

Replacement Fees

First, understand that you will be charged a fee to replace most IDs. Fees may range from $10 to $50 or more, depending on the type of ID you are replacing.

This cost can deter less wealthy individuals from renewing their identifications and lead to increased problems in the future. For example, getting pulled over without a license or needing to travel in an emergency situation.

Replacement Procedures

Government agencies issue most IDs. To replace them, you must visit the issuing agency and fill out an application for replacement. You will have to pay the fee and often provide alternative forms of identification to verify that you are you.

How Can Lost or Stolen Identification Cause Identity Theft

Once a thief gets ahold of your ID, they could use the information to access online services, impersonate you to get into your bank accounts, or connect additional information found on the dark web about you. Some of the ways lost or stolen ID can put you at risk of identity theft are:

Exposed Personal Profile & Stolen Credentials

If someone has some of your personal information, it could lead to the loss of all your identification. Once someone can access your details, they can combine it with information stolen online and sold on the dark web. Armed with your ID, cybercriminals could access dozens of your other accounts. Therefore, always use a strong password generator for a secure setup and turn on two-factor authentication to keep the bad guys out.

Financial Fraud & Account Takeovers

If a criminal puts together an ID profile on you, they might find enough information to take over your other accounts and wipe out your finances. Account takeover is a very serious issue that you need to be aware of and protect yourself from.

Membership Fraud

Thieves can even use membership cards stored in your stolen wallet to access your rewards programs and use your points for themselves. Anything linked to your identification is at risk if lost or stolen.

Health Insurance / Medical Fraud

Criminals can also use your medical ID to get services and prescriptions and even alter your medical profile, putting your health at risk. Medical identity theft is a serious problem and many identity theft victims are targeted using their healthcare or medical ID cards.

Common Signs to Notice Identity Theft

Most people don't check their card charges or credit scores every week. So, criminals can use your identity for months without being discovered. By then, closing accounts, rectifying costs, and reporting the crime is exhausting.

You'll need to pay extra attention if you've recently lost your ID. Here are a few ways to notice if your identity was stolen.

Changes in Credit Report

It's strange to check your credit score religiously. It's good that you don't have to. Services like IDStrong have features that will automatically notify you when your score changes. While the exact reason for the drop or increase isn't too specific, this is a significant warning sign that something is wrong.

Unknown Physical Mail

Unknown physical mail, or snail mail, is usually tossed aside immediately. Dealing with letters that aren't directly naming us is a pain. However, this is when you should be paying the most attention.

If you're receiving card statements from organizations you haven't interacted with; it's likely fraud. A criminal has stolen your identity and is using your information to take loans or make purchases in your name. 

Unfamiliar Logins

A growing number of devices are attached to each of our online accounts. Ensure that you have notifications turned on that notify you when a new login occurs.

This will tell you if someone is trying to log in from an unknown IP address or a new device. If you get a message like this, you should immediately change your login credentials before thoroughly reviewing the account.

Where and How to Report Identity Theft?

You can report your lost ID or stolen ID to the issuing agency and, if applicable, the local law enforcement agency in your area to file a police report. For example, if your wallet is stolen while shopping at the mall, you might want to inform the security personnel there and the local police. You should also contact the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) to put a fraud alert on your file and perhaps even a credit freeze so no one can open new accounts in your name. You are entitled to a free credit report annually. You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and report any identity theft or fraud. They have a dedicated website (identitytheft.gov) for this purpose.

security tips on stolen id

Security Tips on Storing Your Identification Documents

To protect your digital life and your identification, follow the tips below when storing different types of IDs.

Keep Your Social Security Card at Home

Never travel with your social security card unless you absolutely need it. Most organizations will only ask for your SSN rather than the card itself. Instead, keep it stored in a locked, safe compartment in your home.

Use a Digital Wallet

Digital wallets are not only safe, but they’re also practical. In situations where you forget your ID, some locations will accept ID that you keep online. Store your driver’s license (available in some states), medical IDs, and other cards in your digital wallet, and leave the real cards at home. You can secure your mobile device with biometrics so no one can access your personal information if your phone is stolen.

Safe Deposit Box

Store your passport and birth certificate in a bank-safe deposit box. Most people don’t need these items that often, and it makes sense to keep them in a secure, locked location until you need them.

These boxes are metal boxes kept in a vault at your bank. They use a two-key security system. One for opening the vault, and another for opening your personal deposit box. There are a few sizes to choose from, but if you’re only using it for identification, the smallest option is enough.

Shred Personal Paperwork

Before discarding any paperwork with your identifying information, shred it first. Don’t throw away bank statements, or other paperwork from financial institutions that have your account number or credit card number on them. Shred-it first. Never put mail containing your SSN or other PII in the mailbox. Instead, drop it off at the post office. Thieves steal trash and mail to collect personal information.

Additionally, sign up for identity monitoring and credit monitoring to protect yourself from identity theft. These services provide identity theft protection by keeping a close eye on all your personal information and alerting you when it shows up online so you can take the proper steps to minimize any damage.

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