FRAUD RESOURCE CENTER
En español | 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.
- Do hang up immediately if you get an unsolicited call from someone who claims to be from Medicare and asks for personal information.
- Do destroy your old Medicare card, if you haven’t already. Run it through a shredder, or cut it up with scissors (making sure to mutilate the part with your Social Security number).
- Do give your Medicare number only to trusted providers of your health care and coverage, such as doctors, pharmacists, insurers and state health agencies that work with Medicare.
- Don’t share your Medicare or Social Security number (or other personal information) with anyone who contacts you out of the blue by phone, text or email or shows up unannounced at your door.
- Don’t send or give your old Medicare card to anyone. Impostors may claim you need to return it. The government doesn’t need your old card back and recommends that you destroy it.
- Don’t believe a caller is a Medicare employee simply because he or she knows some information about you. Scammers will have done their homework.
- If you suspect a Medicare card scam, report it to Medicare at 800-633-4227.
- You can report identity theft, and get help with a recovery plan, at the Federal Trade Commission's IdentityTheft.gov site. You can also call the FTC at 877-438-4338.
Updated February 4, 2021
About the Fraud Watch Network
Whether you have been personally affected by scams or fraud or are interested in learning more, the AARP Fraud Watch Network advocates on your behalf and equips you with the knowledge you need to feel more informed and confidently spot and avoid scams.
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