Is it true Social Security will help track down a missing person?

Q: Is it true that the Social Security Administration will help you find a missing person?

A: Sort of. As part of the Freedom of Information Act, the SSA will attempt to send a letter to a missing person. Under certain circumstances, it is free; sometimes there's a fee of $25. After a first attempt, they will NOT try a second time. This is from the government's website:

We will attempt to forward a letter to a missing person under circumstances involving a matter of great importance, such as a death or serious illness in the missing person's immediate family, or a sizeable amount of money that is due the missing person. Also, the circumstances must concern a matter about which the missing person is unaware and would undoubtedly want to be informed. (Generally, when a son, daughter, brother, or sister wishes to establish contact, we write to the missing person, rather than forward a letter from the relative.) Because this service is not related in any way to a Social Security program, its use must be limited so that it does not interfere with our regular program activities.

There is no charge for forwarding letters that have a humanitarian purpose. However, we must charge a $25 (effective July 1, 2001) fee to cover our costs when the letter is to inform the missing person of money or property due him or her. This fee is not refundable. The fee should be paid by a check that is made payable to the Social Security Administration.

We must read each letter we forward to ensure that it contains nothing that could prove embarrassing to the missing person if read by a third party. We do not believe that it would be proper to open a sealed letter; therefore, a letter that is sent to us for forwarding should be in a plain, unstamped, unsealed envelope showing only the missing person's name. Nothing of value should be enclosed.

To try to locate an address in our records, we need the missing person's Social Security number or identifying information to help us find the number. The identifying information needed is the person's date and place of birth, the father's name, and the mother's full birth name.

Usually, we forward a letter in care of the employer who most recently reported earnings for the missing person. We normally would have the current home address only if the person is receiving benefits. Therefore, we cannot assure that a letter will be delivered or that a reply will be received. Also, we cannot send a second letter.

Requests for letter forwarding should be sent to:

Social Security Administration
Letter Forwarding
P.O. Box 33022
Baltimore, MD 21290-3022