Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Tamper-proof Social Security cards would be costly

(ran PT HT editions)

Next to driver's licenses and passports, Social Security cards are the closest thing to a national identity card Americans carry. Lawmakers want to make them tamper-proof, but just can't agree on a method.

The Social Security Administration says replacing the current paper cards that carry only a name and a number with a plastic model would be prohibitively costly and require a mass re-registration.

Responding to congressional concerns over a verifiable identification system, the SSA came up with several prototypes, but cautioned that cardholders would probably balk if they had to dig in their pockets to pay for the changes.

New models under study include credit card clones complete with individual photographs and raised lettering, cards with magnetic strips and features that reproduce fingerprints, and plain plastic cards with only a Social Security number and citizenship information.

But the SSA isn't supporting any of the proposals, claiming they could cost individuals up to $38 per card, depending on the features included. There currently are approximately 277-million Social Security cards in the hands of citizens. SSA officials say the cost of issuing new cards could run as high as $9.2-billion.