AARP Eye Center
From April 2018 to January 2019, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent every Medicare beneficiary a new card designed to better protect against identity theft. Where the previous cards showed your Social Security number, the new cards utilize a unique, randomly assigned combination of numbers and letters called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). But the new approach hasn’t stopped criminals from targeting older Americans.
During the rollout, scammers impersonating Medicare employees called many beneficiaries, telling them they needed to verify personal information or pay a processing fee to get their new card. Once the rollout was complete, the fraudsters switched gears, adopting variations on the con that claim you need to replace or upgrade your Medicare card.
For example, Medicare impostors might ask for your new identifying number to “activate” your card or confirm that you received it. They may assert that your new card isn’t the right one and won’t work; they’ll offer to send a replacement if you provide personal information, such as a Social Security number or date of birth. They might try to entice you to pay a fee to switch from a paper to a plastic card, or one with a chip (card types Medicare does not offer). Another trick is to claim there’s been suspicious activity on your Medicare account, and you need to verify your identity to avoid losing your benefits.
What the scammers really want, of course, is to get personal or financial information for the purposes of identity theft or outright theft. To thwart a Medicare card scam, follow some basic precautions.
- You receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to work for Medicare. Actual employees will never call you without being invited to do so — for example, if you left a message at Medicare’s customer service line (800-633-4227).
- The caller claims you need to pay a fee to get a new or upgraded Medicare card,
- Someone threatens to cancel your Medicare coverage unless you provide personal information over the phone.
- You get a bill from a hospital or medical provider for care that you didn’t receive.