En español | Whether you're already receiving benefits or are years away from retirement, it's important to keep an eye on your account with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to ensure you will collect what you have earned. But with local offices closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and lengthy wait times on the phone helpline, tracking and managing your benefits can be difficult if you haven't set up an online My Social Security account.
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Taking a few minutes to create this account will give you more control of your benefits while saving you time. Now that the SSA has mostly stopped sending out paper benefit statements, an online account is the primary way people can keep track of their retirement benefits. More than 30 million Americans already have accounts. You can use your My Social Security account to:
- Compare estimates of how much you would receive in monthly benefits if you retire early, at full retirement age or at age 70.
- Set up direct deposit of your benefit payments.
- Request a replacement Medicare or Social Security card.
- Change your address or phone number.
- Verify your earnings over your career.
- Request a benefit verification letter, which you can use as proof of income when applying for a loan or mortgage or for government assistance, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits or housing vouchers.
- Request a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, the forms the agency mails to you every January for tax purposes that summarize your benefits for the previous year.
- Check the status of a pending claim or appeal of disability benefits.
It's important to note that while you cannot use a My Social Security account directly to apply for benefits, there is a link to start receiving retirement benefits on the SSA website.
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How to get started
To set up a My Social Security account, you must be at least 18 and have a valid email address. You will also need your own Social Security number and a U.S. mailing address. Make sure that you have all of this information handy.
There is one more step you may have to complete before you create an account. If you have placed a freeze on your credit report to prevent scammers from using your information, you will need to remove it temporarily to create your account. That's because the agency uses information from your credit report (such as what bank you have a mortgage with or what credit cards you have) to confirm your identity. You can lift a freeze by contacting any of the three credit agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — online, by phone or by mail.
Once your credit report is available, follow these steps to get started.
- Go to the My Social Security sign-up page and click on Create an Account (that’s the long blue button on the left of the screen).
- The blue button you clicked will take you to a new page where you will also want to click on the Create New Account button (colored white and on the top left part of the screen).
- You should get to a screen that tells you the terms of service for a My Social Security account. Once you’ve read the information, click on the square in the button that says “I agree to the terms of service,” near the bottom of the page. That will put a checkmark in the square. Once that checkmark appears, click on the button underneath it that says Next.
- The new page will ask you for your personal information: your name, birth date, Social Security Number, address and other details. Fill in each box accurately; then click to go to the next page.
- This page will ask you questions based on information from your credit report. Click on the appropriate multiple-choice response for each question; then click the button on the bottom of the screen to go to the next page.
- You will now be asked for a cellphone number or email account to receive a security code. Choose the option you prefer, enter the code in the box that says Security Code, and click on the Submit Security Code button.
- At the next screen you create a username and password. This will be your My Social Security account log-in. Make sure that your password is strong, to deter scammers from easily figuring it out. With passwords, longer is better; you can strengthen it by thinking of one of your favorite phrases from a book or movie, then swapping in numbers and symbols for letters. And, of course, always use a different password for each website.
You’ll also need to list a second identifier for your My Social Security account, either a cellphone number or an email address. Whenever you log on to your account, the SSA will text or email you a onetime code to complete verification. That code helps the agency confirm that you are the actual account holder. The website also will ask you to select a number of security questions that you will have to answer if you want to reset or change your password (for example, your father’s middle name or the street you lived on as a child). To prevent fraud, the agency will send you a verification code each subsequent time you log on to your account. Congratulations! You have successfully created your online My Social Security account.
Protecting your benefits from swindlers
In 2017 the SSA implemented the process in which it sends you a security code each time you log on, to guard against unauthorized use and identity theft. That’s because scammers who have your Social Security number and address can go online and set up a “My Social Security” account in your name — if you haven’t already done so. The big risk is if you’re 62 or older. Thieves could start collecting your retirement benefits, and you might not find out about it until years later when you apply for Social Security.
Only one account is permitted per Social Security number, so claiming your account early is key. “People need to plant their flag, because someone could just sign up for you,” cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs, who runs the Krebs on Security website, told AARP in 2018.
Krebs noted that in the Social Security identity theft cases he’s seen, the victims ultimately had to visit a Social Security office to resolve the problems.