New Medicare cards on the way

In April the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began mailing new Medicare cards to 55 million beneficiaries, including 126,000 North Dakotans.

The year-long effort to mail new ID cards to all Medicare recipients began in April. North Dakotans in the Medicare program should be receiving their new cards within a few months. The cards will automatically be mailed to all current beneficiaries, so you don’t need to do anything to receive one.

The redesigned cards no longer contain enrollees’ Social Security numbers – a move designed to enhance security and help protect against identity theft. Ironically, the card replacement program has opened these new opportunities for con artists:

– Scammers pose as Medicare representatives and contact beneficiaries to demand immediate payment via credit card of a processing fee for the new card. There is no fee.

– In other cases, the scammers falsely say that Medicare needs to verify a recipient’s Social Security number or other personal information before issuing the card. Medicare says it does not make such calls and does not initiate uninvited contact.

– Yet another version of the scam tells beneficiaries that they are due a refund on transactions with their old card, and asks them to provide bank account information for the processing of the alleged refund.

Results of an AARP survey, which polled Medicare enrollees age 65 and older, indicate a significant number of people could end up as victims of the scams. Among the key findings:

– There is little public awareness. Three-quarters of those surveyed (76 percent) knew nothing or very little about Medicare’s plan to issue new identification cards.

– Six in 10 think they could face a fee. Although the redesigned ID cards are free, 60 percent of Medicare enrollees did not know or weren’t sure if they would be required to pay a fee.

– Half might not question a purported call from Medicare: When asked if beneficiaries could expect to receive a telephone call from Medicare asking them to verify their Social Security number, half (51 percent) said they weren’t sure.

Remember, you don’t need to do anything to receive your new Medicare card. Medicare will not call you and Medicare will never ask for your Social Security number or bank information.