Senior Lifestyles

Fighting fraud: Guard your card

If you have Medicare, you can protect your identity and help prevent health-care fraud by guarding your Medicare card like you would a credit card.

Identity theft arising from stolen Medicare numbers is becoming more common. Medicare is in the process of removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards and replacing them with a new, unique number for each person with Medicare.

Medicare will mail new Medicare cards with the new numbers between April 2018 and April 2019.

The new card won’t change your Medicare coverage or benefits. And there’s no charge for your new card.

But watch out for scammers.

Thieves may try to get your current Medicare number and other personal information by contacting you about your new Medicare card.

They may claim to be from Medicare and use various phony pitches to get your Medicare number, such as:

• Asking you to confirm your Medicare or Social Security number so that they can send you a new card.

• Telling you that there’s a charge for your new card and they need to verify your personal information.

• Threatening to cancel your health benefits if you don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information.

Don’t fall for any of this.

Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by phone, email or by approaching you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance.

Valid inquiries

Medicare, or someone representing Medicare, will only call and ask for personal information in the following situations.

• A Medicare health or drug plan can call you if you’re already a member of the plan. The agent who helped you join can also call you.

• A customer service representative from Medicare may call if you’ve called and left a message or if a representative said that someone would call you back.

Only give personal information like your Medicare number to doctors, insurers acting on your behalf or trusted people in the community who work with Medicare, like counselors from the State Health Insurance Assistance Program.

If someone calls you and asks for your Medicare number or other personal information, hang up and call Medicare at (800) 633-4227.

There are other steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft that can lead to health-care fraud.

• Don’t ever let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.

• Review your Medicare Summary Notice to ensure that you and Medicare are being charged only for items and services you actually received.

• If someone calls and tries to get you to sign up for a Medicare plan, keep in mind there are no “early bird discounts” or “limited time offers.” Don’t let anyone rush you to enroll by claiming that you need to “act now for the best deal.”

• Be skeptical of promises of free gifts, free medical services, discount packages or any offer that sounds too good to be true. It probably is.

For more information on protecting yourself from identity theft and health-care fraud, visit Medicare.gov/fraud or contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol via smpresource.org.

Greg Dill is Medicare’s regional administrator. For more information, call (800) 633-4227.

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