Chicago seniors who are enrolled in Medicare benefits should be aware: according to NBC Chicago, medicare cards are “getting a makeover to fight identity theft.”
Six in 10 Americans say that Medicare is working well. Seniors are the most likely to say the program is successful, with eight in 10 saying it serves seniors well. That being said, identity theft is a growing problem in many parts of the country, and the elderly are among the most targeted.
“Criminals are increasingly targeting people age 65 and older for medical identity theft,” Medicare chief Seema Verma told The Associated Press. “We are committed to preventing fraud.”
Seniors can expect their new cards to no longer list their Social Security numbers. Instead, each beneficiary will be sent a new card in the mail containing an identification number that is unique to them.
The initiative is just one part of the government’s ongoing effort to transition more than 58 million beneficiaries in addition to their family members. Hospitals, insurance companies, pharmacies, doctors, and state governments will also be affected.
The government has a goal of early April to start sending out new and improved Medicare cards. Furthermore, Congress has set a concrete deadline of 2019 for all beneficiaries to have received their new identification cards.
One major objective is to equip seniors with the knowledge to defend themselves against potential identity theft threats. They should be reminded that their current cards can compromise their information if they become lost or stolen. Furthermore, the government cited approximately 2.6 million identity theft cases involving senior citizens in 2014 alone, which is up by half a million from 2012.
Verma recalled one woman who reported her Medicare card as stolen. She then received a replacement and thought no more of it until two full years later. The woman learned she may be arrested because the person who stole it used her identity in order to obtain opioids.
Incidents like that, and many more, are the main impetus behind the government’s initiative. In addition to providing a plethora of medical benefits, many beneficiaries also receive medically necessary equipment, such as assistive mobility devices, which are used by approximately 6.8 million Americans.
Beneficiaries should also be aware that Medicare has designated a website that allows them to check the status of their new card. Additionally, instructions will be mailed with each new card telling beneficiaries to destroy their old cards to protect themselves. New cards, however, can be used immediately.
Meanwhile, beneficiaries have also been instructed to stay vigilant about their identity. AARP fraud prevention expert Amy Nofziger says criminals can attack more frequently during transition periods such as these.
“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.”