Since the program’s beginning, Medicare cards have used a person’s Social Security number as part of their claim number. Stamping Medicare cards with this valuable information has become increasingly problematic in the age of identity theft. With about 59 million people currently in the Medicare system, that’s a lot of potential victims for criminals and scammers to target.
To deal with this problem, the federal government will spend the next year issuing new Medicare cards. From April 2018 to April 2019, the government will mail all current Medicare participants a new card that replaces the Social Security number with a brand new Medicare Number. Each new 11-digit Medicare Number will be a unique, randomly generated mix of letters and numbers that will be much more secure.
“Retired LIUNA members and their families should be aware of the details of this Medicare card transition,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Current LIUNA members and signatory contractors can assist by helping to distribute this information. With almost 60 million people eligible for Medicare in the U.S., there’s a good chance you know several people who are affected.”
Here are the other key facts current Medicare beneficiaries need to know about this transition:
- Your benefits and coverage are not changing.
- Both the old card and the new card will be accepted by health care providers until the end of 2019.
- Receiving the new card is automatic and free.
- Doctors will be able to look up your Medicare Number at their offices if you forget to bring your new card.
- Because cards will be mailed out over the next year, your new card might arrive at a different time than a friend’s or family member’s, especially if they live in a different state.
- When you receive your new card, don’t just throw the old one away; shred it, cut it up or destroy it in another way.
The only action you may need to take before receiving your new card is making sure your address is up to date. If you think your address needs to be updated, contact the Social Security Administration at ssa.gov/myaccount or 1-800-772-1213. TTY users can call 1-800-325-0778.
Avoiding Scams Related to New Medicare Cards
Unfortunately, there have already been several reports of different scams based around the new Medicare cards. Some scams involve charging a fee of between $5 and $50 for a “temporary card.” Other scams involve attempting to “confirm” personal information in order to issue the new Medicare card. In all of them, the goal is the same – to gather personal bank or credit card information or a Social Security number. These are only some of the possible scams out there and more will likely pop up as scammers change their tactics. Fortunately, a few key pieces of information will help you avoid these scams and others like them:
- There’s no fee for new Medicare cards. It will arrive in the mail on its own and does not need to be requested.
- Medicare will not call or email you unless you’ve asked them to; they communicate with beneficiaries by regular mail. If you’re not sure whether the person contacting you is actually from Medicare, hang up or don’t respond. You can call Medicare yourself at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
- Medicare representatives will never ask for your personal information over the phone or via email.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, contact your banking institutions to place holds on your accounts, then report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338. You may also want to sign up for your local Senior Medicare Patrol group, which provides important Medicare-related information to seniors across the U.S.