Change, even change for the good, is often an opportunity for scammers.
This month, new Medicare cards, with new Medicare identification numbers, should be arriving in the mail for Hawaii residents.
The new cards have a computer-generated 11-digit number instead of your Social Security number on the front. That should make it harder for scammers to steal your identity.
But scammers are taking advantage of confusion over the new cards to come up with new ways to steal your money and your identity.
A recent AARP survey showed many Medicare beneficiaries could be vulnerable to Medicare card fraud. About 60 percent of those surveyed weren’t sure if the new cards require a fee. In addition, about half of those surveyed said they weren’t sure about whether Medicare would call to ask to verify your Social Security number.
Here’s the bottom line: The new cards are free, do not require a fee and Medicare already has your Social Security and other personal information. They don’t need to verify it.
If someone calls or emails you and asks you to pay a fee, hang up. If someone calls and says they are from Medicare and wants your Social Security number, bank information or other personal information, hang up. If you’re told you’ll lose your benefits if you don’t give them information and money right now, hang up.
If you have questions about a call or want to report a scam, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
Also, if you haven’t already done so, make sure your mailing address is updated so the new cards will arrive at the correct location.
If you have a Medicare Advantage supplemental insurance plan, keep that card handy. Your Medicare Advantage number is your main card. But you may also be asked to show your Medicare card, so keep both cards with you when you visit a health care provider.
Supplemental Medicare insurance plans are already using identification numbers that are not your Social Security number.
Even though your Social Security number isn’t on the new Medicare cards, you need to protect your new Medicare number. That number can be used to steal from Medicare.
To make sure no one is using your Medicare information, it’s important to regularly review your Medicare Explanation of Benefits statement and verify that each of the items on the statement was provided on the date listed and from the provider listed.
Scammers are constantly looking for new ways to take your money. So it’s important to keep up with the latest scams to protect yourself and your family.
One way to do that is to join AARP’s Fraud Watch Network. You can call 1-877-908-3369 to speak with volunteers trained in fraud counseling or sign up for “Watchdog Alerts” that deliver breaking scam information. The Fraud Watch Network website, AARP.org/fraud, also has tips and information you can use to protect yourself.
The best way to fight fraud is to remain vigilant, hang up on strangers who call you to ask for money or information, and to keep informed.
Barbara Kim Stanton is the state director for AARP Hawaii, an organization dedicated to empowering people to choose how they live as they age.