By Greg Dill
If you have Medicare, you can protect your identity and help prevent health care fraud by guarding your Medicare card like you would a credit card.
Identity theft arising from stolen Medicare numbers is becoming more common. Medicare is in the process of removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards and replacing them with a new, unique number for each person with Medicare.
Medicare will mail new Medicare cards with the new numbers between April 2018 and April 2019.
The new card won’t change your Medicare coverage or benefits. And there’s no charge for your new card.
But watch out for scammers!
Thieves may try to get your current Medicare number and other personal information by contacting you about your new Medicare card. They may claim to be from Medicare and use various phony pitches to get your Medicare number, such as:
Aking you to confirm your Medicare or Social Security number so they can send you a new card.
Telling you there’s a charge for your new card and they need to verify your personal information.
Threatening to cancel your health benefits if you don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information.
Don’t fall for any of this.
Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by phone, email, or by approaching you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance.
Medicare, or someone representing Medicare, will only call and ask for personal information in these situations:
A Medicare health or drug plan can call you if you’re already a member of the plan. The agent who helped you join can also call you.
A customer service representative from 1-800-MEDICARE can call if you’ve called and left a message or a representative said that someone would call you back.
Only give personal information like your Medicare number to doctors, insurers acting on your behalf, or trusted people in the community who work with Medicare, like counselors from the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
If someone calls you and asks for your Medicare number or other personal information, hang up and call us at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
There are other steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft that can lead to health care fraud.
Don’t ever let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number. And review your Medicare Summary Notice to be sure you and Medicare are being charged only for items and services you actually received.
We’re in the midst of Medicare open enrollment season right now. This is the time every year when you can sign up for, switch, or drop a Medicare health plan (Part C) or a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D). Open enrollment ends Dec. 7.
Scam artists often try to take advantage of open enrollment season. So if someone calls and tries to get you to sign up for a Medicare plan, keep in mind there are no “early bird discounts” or “limited time offers.”
Don’t let anyone rush you to enroll by claiming you need to “act now for the best deal.”
And be skeptical of promises of free gifts, free medical services, discount packages or any offer that sounds too good to be true.
It probably is.
To learn more about protecting yourself from identity theft and health care fraud, visit www.Medicare.gov/fraud or contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol (www.smpresource.org).
Greg Dill is Medicare’s regional administrator for Arizona, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Territories. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).