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By Thomas Goldsmith

If someone tries to “help” an older person who’s gotten one of the new Medicare cards, look out.

Mike Causey, state insurance commissioner, is warning of scam artists trying to take advantage of a no-frills change to Medicare cards. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will start sending out new cards in April with a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier in place of Social Security numbers, which have been used for decades, for use in billing and in checking claims and eligibility.

People will start getting their new Medicare cards, that look like this one, in the mail this year.

But that’s it. Recipients don’t have to do anything more than start using the card.

“This will happen automatically,” Causey said in a statement. “Recipients won’t have to pay anyone or provide additional information to anyone who may threaten to remove Medicare benefits unless they comply,” he warned.

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The whole idea of new cards is to prevent fraud by criminals who might use the Social Security number easily seen on the current cards. Crimes could include identity theft and compromising medical and financial data.

These old Medicare cards are being phased out over the coming year. You can keep using them until the new card comes, nothing else needs to be done!

“Recently, however, the Department has been informed of Medicare recipients who have received phone calls from people asking for personal information as they wait for their new cards to arrive,” DOI said in a release.

Among methods that may be used by scam artists:

  • Calls from people posing as Medicare personnel, asking for Social Security or bank account numbers. In fact, Medicare will not call you, let alone ask for private information.
  • A request to pay for a new card. Don’t do it. Not needed.
  • A threat to cancel benefits unless the caller gets money. Another scam.

Finally, spouses or family members should not be surprised or worried if cards come at separate times for different people in the household. All the cards will show up in time.

For more information, call the Department’s Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) at 855-408-1212.

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Thomas Goldsmith

Thomas Goldsmith worked in daily newspapers for 33 years before joining North Carolina Health News. Goldsmith is a native Tar Heel who attended the UNC-Chapel Hill, and worked at newspapers in Tennessee...