In an effort to combat fraud, the 1 million Minnesotans on the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled will receive new identification cards in July.
Social Security numbers, which were the basis for the Medicare ID number, will no longer appear on the card. Instead the card contains a new ID composed of randomly generated numbers and letters.
Congress mandated in 2015 that Medicare remove the Social Security numbers as a fraud prevention measure, especially since stolen numbers often are the first step in identity theft.
But fraudsters are taking advantage of the card switch by posing as Medicare officials seeking money or financial information in exchange for getting the new card — something that Medicare does not do.
“The criminals know that everyone is getting new cards and they are capitalizing on that event,” said Jay Haapala, associate state director for community engagement at AARP Minnesota.
Medicare beneficiaries are not required to do anything to get the new identification card. As part of a yearlong nationwide rollout, new cards for Minnesotans are beginning to be mailed and will continue throughout July.
“We are mailing them in waves,” said Amy Hennessy, a technical director in the Chicago regional office of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “They might receive their card at a different time than their friend or neighbor but they are certainly on their way.”
Clinics and hospitals are likely to ask Medicare beneficiaries for their new ID numbers on future visits, but the old ID numbers will still work through 2019. Providers also have the ability to look up the new ID numbers, Hennessy said.
Haapala has fielded inquiries from Minnesota seniors who have been targets of fraud related to the new cards.
“They were calling unsuspecting people saying that the Medicare card is delayed and if you want it now all you have to do is pay $100,” he said.
Other scams ask beneficiaries for personal financial information, claiming it is needed to process the new cards.
“Medicare is not contacting people or asking for information in order to get the new card,” said Hennessy. “Medicare is going to automatically mail the new card.”
Enrollees can check the delivery status of their new card at medicare.gov/newcard.
The Medicare cards are separate from any cards issued by Medicare Advantage, Medicare Cost or Medicare supplemental plans.
Anyone who is concerned about whether the government has their correct address can contact the Social Security Administration, which maintains those records, at 800-772-1213 or at ssa.gov/myaccount.
Once the new card arrives, the old Medicare card should be destroyed rather than discarded in the trash or recycling, Hennessy said.