New Medicare cards have finally started to be mailed to Colorado's Medicare beneficiaries. That's good news, but the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP), all part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, caution that scammers and fraudsters are using this to take advantage of unsuspecting seniors.
"'New card, same guard' is what we're telling people," said Kimberly Latta, director of Colorado's SHIP/SMP programs. "Your Medicare card is key to your medical identity and we don't want people to give that key away. But we also want folks to be aware of these scams looking for money or bank information. We ask that people watch out for themselves and their loved ones."
Here are a few of the more common scams that are being reported across the country.
• People contacting Medicare beneficiaries and asking them to pay for their new Medicare card. The new cards are being mailed automatically to Medicare beneficiaries. You don't have to request it, and you certainly do not have to pay an activation or process fee, or any kind of fee, for your new card.
• Someone calling who claims to be from Medicare and wants your Social Security number, your Medicare number or bank information. Know that Medicare will never initiate calls and won't ask for such personal information, and you don't need to provide this information to get your new card. If this happens, hang up. It's a scam.
• Threats to cancel Medicare benefits if you don't provide your information or pay for your new card. This is really just a more aggressive form of the first two scams. Again, hang up on anyone threatening you like this.
"Like any major transition, scammers will target Medicare beneficiaries in Colorado who recently received their new card," said Mark Fetterhoff, senior program specialist with the AARP Foundation's Elderwatch. "It is critical that people are aware they could be the target of phishing scams hunting for personal information."
If you or someone you know encounters one of these scams, or similar attempts, contact Colorado's Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-800-503-5190. This program helps people detect and deter suspected Medicare fraud and abuse. Visit the Senior Medicare Patrol and Medicare Fraud page on the Division of Insurance website for more information. And once you receive your new card and verify that the information on the card is correct, be sure to shred the old one -- don't just throw it in the trash.
The new cards have removed people's Social Security numbers and replaced them with an 11-character Medicare identifier with both numbers and letters. Removing the Social Security numbers is an effort to reduce the risk of identity theft. CMS began mailing new cards across the country in April, but didn't get to Colorado until mid-September.
Medicare enrollees can check the status of their card and learn more about the new Medicare cards at medicare.gov/newcard. New enrollees in Medicare will simply receive the new cards. Those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans should continue to use the cards provided by their insurance companies, but they will also be sent new Medicare cards. They should keep the new card in a safe place for future reference.
If you've moved recently, make sure that the Social Security Administration has your current mailing address, as that is what Medicare is using to mail cards. Contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.