Medicare has used a person’s Social Security number as his or her Medicare number since the inception of Medicare in 1965 and despite the rest of the country recognizing that this put 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 that the law is in the effect, scammers are springing up to take advantage of confusion about the switch to new Medicare numbers to make people victims of identity theft.
In April 2018, new cards began being sent by regular mail to all 60 million Americans enrolled in Medicare. The Department of Health and Human Services has just announced that it has recently completed the mailing of new Medicare cards to all Medicare recipients. 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 have been taking advantage of 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 their new cards on the phone or they will lose benefits. They then ask for their intended victim’s former Medicare number which was the same as their Social Security number and use that information to make them a victim of identity theft.
If you are a Medicare recipient, you should have already received your new card in the mail. If you haven’t received your new card yet, search for any unopened mail you may have. The new Medicare cards were mailed in plain white envelopes from the Department of Health and Human Services. If you still can’t find the new card, you can go to www.MyMedicare.gov to obtain your new number and print out your new Medicare card. If you don’t have a MyMedicare.gov account, you can go there to create one. You also can call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). In order to prevent someone from using your old Medicare card, which is your Social Security number, you should shred your old card as soon as you get your new card. 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.
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