How to Replace Vital Documents that are Lost or Stolen

documentsQuestion: Can you tell me how to go about replacing important lost documents? My wife and I recently downsized and at some point during the move we lost our Social Security and Medicare cards, birth certificates, marriage license and passports.

Replacing important documents that are lost, stolen or damaged is pretty easy if you know where to turn. Here are the replacement resources for each document you mentioned, along with some tips to protect you from identity theft, which can happen if your documents end up in the wrong hands.

Birth certificate: If you were born in the United States, contact the vital records office in the state where you were born. This office will explain what you need to do to order a certified copy and how much it will cost you. Birth certificate fees typically range between $9 and $30.

Social Security card: You can replace a lost or stolen Social Security card for free. Residents of certain states may request a replacement card online at

If you live in a state that does not permit residents to apply for a new card online, you will need to fill out Form SS-5 and bring it to your local Social Security office, along with your driver’s license, state-issued non-driver ID card or U.S. passport (photocopies are not accepted). You may also submit these documents to your local Social Security office by mail. Any documents you mail in will be returned to you. To find the Social Security office that serves your area, call 800-772-1213 or visit

Be aware that losing your Social Security card puts you at risk for identity theft. If you find that someone has used your Social Security number to obtain credit, loans, telephone accounts or other goods and services, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at (or 877-438-4338). The FTC will also give you specific steps you’ll need to take to handle this problem.

Medicare card: To replace your Medicare card for free, you can call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or contact your local Social Security office. You can also request one online at Your card should arrive in the mail in about 30 days.

If you lose your Medicare card, you need to watch out for Medicare fraud. Check your Medicare Summary Notice for services you did not receive and, if you spot any, call the Inspector General’s fraud hotline at 800-447-8477 to report them.

Marriage certificate: Contact the vital records office in the state where you were married to order a copy. You will need to provide full names for you and your spouse, the date of your wedding and the city or town where the wedding was performed. Fees may range from $10 to $30.

Note: Divorce certificates can also be ordered from states’ vital records offices (fees may range from $5 to $30). Divorce decree documents can be obtained from the county clerk’s office for the city or county in which the divorce was granted.

Passport: A lost passport also puts you at risk for identity theft, so you will need to report this as soon as possible to the U.S. State Department. Go to and fill out Form DS-64. You will receive an email acknowledging that your report was received. Within a couple of days, you will receive another email (or letter, if you request one) confirming that your passport has been entered into the Consular Lost or Stolen Database.

You can apply for a replacement passport at a Passport Application Acceptance Facility. Many post offices, public libraries and local government offices serve as such facilities. You can search for the nearest authorized facility at The fee for a replacement passport is $135.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.