On April 2, Medicare began the process of replacing 60 million beneficiary cards. The new card design includes a unique identification number that replaces your previous, SSN-based number. The goal is to reduce your risk of identity theft and fraud as well improve your privacy. Your benefits will not change.
Unfortunately, almost as soon as Medicare announced that their new card would help protect beneficiaries against scams, criminals got busy launching new schemes. Most of these scams rely on the target not understanding the change, so this post explains common scams and how to protect yourself against them.
Scams to Look Out For
Many scammers target seniors because they’re assumed to be wealthier and more likely to be isolated, two qualities that con artists love. With the announcement of the new cards, these criminals saw an opportunity, because they knew that many beneficiaries would have limited information about the change.
The most common scam is calling a beneficiary and saying that he or she can’t get the new card until they verify their Social Security Number and bank information. There may also be a threat to cancel your Medicare benefits until you do. Scammers may also tell you that you have to pay for your new card.
Medicare will never call you and request personal information to send you your card. If anyone calls you making any of these claims or asking you for personal information, hang up the phone and call (800) MEDICARE (633-4227) to report the incident.
What You Need to Know
One of the best ways to protect yourself against scams is knowledge, since most scammers rely on their targets having a lack of knowledge (i.e. not knowing that Medicare will not call you and ask for your SSN). The first thing you need to know is that you don’t need to do anything to get your new card; the process is automatic.
The first people to receive the new cards are new Medicare enrollees, with other beneficiaries receiving theirs over the coming year. If you haven’t already, you should update your mailing address through your My Social Security page. And, if you wish to track the status of your new card, visit this page and sign up for email updates.
Upon receipt of your new card, destroy your old Medicare card, preferably in a shredder.
The following are answers to the most common questions.
What Do You Need to Do to Get Your Card?
Nothing. Medicare will not call you, request personal information, or require any payment. You don’t have to make changes to your plan and your benefits will not change. Your only responsibility is ensuring Medicare has your correct mailing address (something you should do anyway). If you need to update it, you can use the Social Security link provided above or you may call them at (800) 772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office (find it here).
Can You Keep Using Your Old Card?
Yes, you may use your current Medicare card through December 31, 2019. Both should continue to work at hospitals and doctors’ offices. Beginning January 1, 2020, however, you may only use your new Medicare card.
The new card is the size of a credit card and fits easily into your wallet. If you do decide to keep your old card, keep it in a safe place. When you’re ready to dispose of it, shred it. Remember, it has your Social Security Number on it; do everything you can to make it difficult for identity thieves to steal your information.
What Should You Do with Your Other Medicare Cards?
Around one-third of Medicare beneficiaries have a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. If this includes you, keep your Medicare Advantage card as well as your new Medicare card. MA cards will not be changing, as these already use unique identifiers that are not based on your Social Security Number.
If you also have a Medicare Part D card, keep that, too. And, of course, keep your new Medicare card; you may need to show it in addition to your MA or prescription drug cards.
Keep any other insurance cards you have. Your new Medicare card only replaces your previous Medicare card.
What Can You Do If You Are Targeted by a Scam?
You don’t have to do anything if you are targeted by scammers, but you can help protect others against these criminals by reporting your experience. You have several reporting options but, at a minimum, you should notify Medicare as instructed above and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Use the FTC Complaint Assistant to help fight fraud.
If you think you’re the victim of Medicare fraud, you can also talk to Senior Medicare Patrol, which has offices in every state to assist Medicare beneficiaries. They can help you request a new Medicare number if yours has been compromised.
Final Thoughts on the New Medicare Cards
The intent behind sending out new Medicare cards was to protect beneficiaries against fraud and abuse. Unfortunately, criminals saw an opportunity. Remember that Medicare will never call you and demand personal information or payment for your new card. And don’t be afraid to report anyone’s attempt to scam you.