New Medicare cards are in the mail, but if you get an unsolicited call, that's a scammer
SEATTLE -- An important warning for everyone who qualifies for Medicare: Impostors are calling cell phones and landlines- claiming to work for the federal government. The trick is timed to coincide with the nationwide delivery of new Medicare cards.
The new cards are being mailed out state by state and right now; 1.3 million people in Washington are getting their new Medicare cards in the mail. The new cards no longer display your Social Security number, which is a prime source for fraud and identity theft.
Now, scammers are posing as Medicare employees and trying to obtain person and financial information for fraudulent activities.
Anna, who doesn't want to use her last name, says she was too embarrassed to admit she was recently fooled.
"It was a blind phone call on my cell phone," Anna explained. "I'm normally so aware of things like this. But these people are so persuasive."
Anna says the man on the phone already had some of her personal information and claimed to be with Medicare. He even provided what he claimed was a Medicare employee badge number.
The caller explained he needed to verify her information in advance of sending her new Medicare card.
"They made it sound so legitimate," Anna explained.
John Hammarlund does work for Medicare. He's the Regional Administrator for the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) office based in Seattle.
"We never call people like that!" exclaimed Hammarlund.
Hammarlund stresses that you do not have to pay any money, answer any questions or provide any information in order to get the new Medicare card. If you're already in the system, you'll simply get your new card in the mail.
Government impostors know that the 9-digit Social Security numbers on old Medicare cards are being replaced by an 11-digit, alpha-numerical, randomly-generated number, which creates an opportunity for fraud. Once scammers get you on the phone, their goal is to get your information fast before you realize you've been duped.
"So, if somebody contacts a Medicare beneficiary and says, 'We know you've received a card or you will soon be receiving a card, and we would like to get some personal information from you- your name, financial information, health information,' that's a scam," Hammarlund stressed.
I showed Anna Medicare's website. It has everything you need to know about the new card process, including warnings about the new card scams.
Anna says despite feeling ashamed for falling for the scam, she wants to help prevent anyone else from being duped.
Hammarlund says Medicare is thankful to Anna for speaking up.
"We're delighted that Anna's reporting this information," Hammarlund said. "We want to assure her that we'll be able to issue a new card, that has a new, randomly-generated number, so there won't be any potential for any fraudulent activity in her case. And we just appreciate her stepping up and letting us know."
The new Medicare cards are not only more secure, they're easier to replace. So if you do not receive your card within the time Medicare says it was mailed, call 1-800-MEDICARE and ask for a new one. Again, Washington state Medicare beneficiaries should have received their new cards by the end of October.
If you realize you've given information to a Medicare impostor, do what Anna did: Report it right away to Medicare and the Social Security Administration, and file fraud and ID theft alerts with your banks, the 3 major credit bureaus and the Federal Trade Commission.