If you are one of America’s 55 million Medicare beneficiaries (or, if someone in your life is), you need to know about a big, POSITIVE change coming. Starting this month, the U.S. government is mailing out new Medicare cards that have been redesigned to help prevent identity theft. New enrollees will be among the first to get the cards. Current enrollees will get theirs over the next year.
The biggest change you’ll notice is that your Social Security number will no longer be on the card. Thank goodness, since Social Security numbers are like gold for scammers. If they get a hold of your number, criminals can file fake tax returns in your name to collect refunds; they can also take out loans, open credit card accounts, and do other things that wreak havoc with your finances and peace of mind.
This important step to protect older Americans is the result of a law passed by Congress in 2015. But, it’s still important to stay alert! Fraudsters have already come up with new scams based on the new cards. Already, we’ve heard about seniors getting calls from people claiming to be from Medicare to collect a processing fee for the new cards. (They’re not. The cards are FREE.) Or, scammers say they need to verify your Social Security number before sending out your new card. (NOPE. Medicare already has your Social Security number). Or, they claim there’s a balance on your old card and they need bank account information to transfer the refund. (NO AGAIN. Medicare does NOT call beneficiaries asking for personal information like this.)
AARP is working hard to make sure that our members and their families understand the new card program and protect themselves from scams. Earlier this year, we fielded a survey that found more than three-quarters of Medicare-aged consumers didn’t know the new cards were coming. So, we’re getting the word out in all kinds of ways . . . there’s a big feature story in the latest edition of the AARP Bulletin, and we’ve put together videos (here and here), an animated “quiz” and a webinar to tell people about the new cards, how to protect them and how to spot card scams. Across the country, AARP teams on the ground are talking to folks in their communities and giving them fact sheets to share with their friends and neighbors.
Every year, fraud and scams impact thousands of families, and older Americans are frequent targets. That’s why AARP launched the Fraud Watch Network – to give our members and people of all ages the information and resources they need foil the fraudsters. When it comes to the new Medicare cards, the roll-out process will go on for a year . . . and so will the scams. We will continue to let our members and others know what to watch out for through our publications, www.aarp.org, and our Fraud Watch Network. To get timely scam alerts, sign up for our watchdog alerts.
Nancy LeaMond is AARP chief advocacy and engagement officer. She leads the organization’s Communities, State and National Group, including government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
You can follow her on Twitter @NancyLeaMond.