FRAUD RESOURCE CENTER
In April 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began issuing new Medicare cards designed to help protect beneficiaries against identity theft. Rather than including a Social Security number, the new card features a unique, randomly assigned combination of numbers and letters called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier. But criminals who target older Americans aren’t giving up so easily. They’ve found ways to take advantage of the card rollout.
There are multiple versions of the new-card scam, most involving con artists impersonating Medicare employees. A scammer may call and ask you to verify some personal information so Medicare can issue your replacement card. In another variation identified by the Better Business Bureau, the crook will claim someone has already tried to misuse your new Medicare number, and he or she needs your personal info to make sure you’re the actual beneficiary.
Other impostors will try to collect a processing fee for the new card or ask you for bank account information so the government can pay a refund it owes you for transactions on the old card. What they really want, of course, is to get your Social Security number for purposes of identity theft or access to your bank account so they can steal from it.
To thwart a Medicare card scam, just follow some basic precautions.
- 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).
- 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, with your Social Security number on it, after you get your new one. Start using the new card right away.
- Do sign up for an alert from Medicare if you haven’t yet received your new card. Medicare will notify you by email when the card has been sent.
- Do give your new Medicare number only to trusted providers of your health care and coverage, such as doctors, pharmacists, insurers and representatives of state health agencies that work with Medicare.
- Don’t share your Social Security or Medicare numbers (or other personal information) with anyone who contacts you out of the blue by phone or email or shows up unannounced at your door.
- Don’t believe anyone who says you have to give them personal information or pay a fee to receive your new card.
- Don’t send or give your old Medicare card to anyone. Impostors may claim you need to return it to get the new one. 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.
- The official Medicare.gov website has an information page on the new cards, including a U.S. map showing whether card mailings have been completed in your state.
- If you’ve received a call or visit from a scammer, 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.
Published: Dec. 3, 2018
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