Medi­care cards re­designed to thwart iden­tity thieves

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - NATION - By Lau­ran Neergaard The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON — Medi­care cards are get­ting a makeover to fight iden­tity theft.

No more So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers plas­tered on the card. Next April, Medi­care will be­gin mail­ing every ben­e­fi­ciary a new card with a unique new num­ber to iden­tify them.

“Crim­i­nals are in­creas­ingly tar­get­ing peo­ple age 65 and older for medical iden­tity theft,” Medi­care chief Seema Verma told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Medi­care is re­veal­ing the cards’ new de­sign on Thurs­day as the gov­ern­ment gears up for a mas­sive tran­si­tion that will in­volve co­or­di­na­tion with 58 mil­lion ben­e­fi­cia­ries, plus hos­pi­tals, doc­tors, in­surance com­pa­nies and state govern­ments.

While the first mail­ings of new cards be­gin next April, Con­gress has set an April 2019 dead­line for all ben­e­fi­cia­ries to have re­ceived one.

One goal is to make sure se­niors know what’s com­ing so they’re not con­fused by the change — and in the mean­time, are re­minded to guard their old cards that, if lost or stolen, can leave them vul­ner­a­ble to fi­nan­cial and legal con­se­quences. The gov­ern­ment recorded 2.6 mil­lion cases of iden­tity fraud in­volv­ing se­niors in 2014.

Verma said one woman re­ported her Medi­care card was stolen, got a re­place­ment and thought no more about it un­til two years later when she learned she might be ar­rested: The thief had im­per­son­ated her to get opi­oid painkillers.

Medi­care has set up a web­site —­card — and is be­gin­ning ads to tell ben­e­fi­cia­ries what to ex­pect start­ing next spring. Medi­care will au­to­mat­i­cally mail ben­e­fi­cia­ries their new card.

While the Medi­care change is cru­cial for se­niors, the tran­si­tion pe­riod also is a time when crooks may pounce, warned AARP’S Amy Nofziger, a fraud preven­tion expert.

“If any­one calls you to say you need to pay for your new Medi­care card, it is a scam,” she said. “If any­body is call­ing you and ask­ing you to ver­ify your So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber in or­der to is­sue your new Medi­care card, it is a scam.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press This im­age pro­vided by the Cen­ters for Medi­care & Med­i­caid Ser­vices shows what the new Medi­care cards will look like.

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