Medicare has used a person’s Social Security number as his or her Medicare number since the inception of Medicare and despite the rest of the country recognizing that this puts Medicare recipients in serious danger of identity theft, Medicare resisted changing the Medicare number to a safer random number for many years. In the Scam of the day for April 23, 2015 I first reported to you about a new law requiring Medicare to start using randomly generated numbers for Medicare identification. The effective date for that law, however was pushed into the future. Now we are approaching the effective date of the law and scammers are springing up to take advantage of confusion about the switch to new Medicare numbers to make people victims of identity theft.
Starting in 2018, new cards will be sent by regular mail to all 60 million Americans enrolled in Medicare. Between April 2018 and December 31, 2019 a Medicare recipient can use either his or her old number or the new, more secure Medicare number. Starting in 2020 only the new numbers will be used.
Scammers are already taking confusion about this transition to the new Medicare numbers by pretending to be Medicare employees, calling Medicare recipients and telling them that they need to register on the phone to get their new card or they will lose benefits. They then ask for their intended victim’s Medicare number which is the same as their Social Security number and use that information to make them a victim of identity theft. In another variation of the scam, targeted victims are told they need to pay for the new card through a credit card or by giving the caller their bank account number. The truth is that there is no charge for the new card, but anyone providing this information to a scammer will quickly become a victim of identity theft.
If you are a Medicare recipient, you will get your new card in the mail. There is nothing you need to do and nothing you need to pay to get your new card with your new number in the mail. As for phone calls purporting to be from Medicare, you should never provide your Social Security number, credit card number or any other personal information to anyone who calls you on the phone because you can never be sure they are legitimate. Even if your Caller ID indicates the call is from Medicare, the IRS or some other legitimate organization, through a technique called “spoofing” your Caller ID can be tricked into making it appear that the call is legitimate. If you get a call asking for personal information that appears legitimate, merely hang up and call the company or agency at a number that you independently know is legitimate to find out the truth.