As April began, so began CMS’s efforts to begin mailing new Social Security number-free Medicare cards to all people with Medicare, beginning with newly eligible people and continuing to different states on a flow basis, determined by geographic location and other factors.
The major change with the new cards, of course, is that Social Security numbers have been replaced with an encrypted 11-digit code in an effort to thwart identity theft. The new cards are also printed on paper, which is easier for many providers to use and copy.
While the “newly eligibles” may have already received a new card by now, beginning in May, replacement cards for existing cardholders will be mailed out in the first wave to people in:
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
A second wave in May will send cards to people in:
- American Samoa
- Northern Mariana Islands
New cards will be mailed to people in remaining states and territories “After June 2018” according to CMS.
The new cards will inevitably lead to plenty of questions and concerns about scams from clients, and it provides an opportunity for agents to proactively reach out to (and solidify relationships with) existing clients and their community at large with helpful information that “sets the record straight” about the new cards and what to beware of when it comes to would-be scammers.
Ron Iverson, Executive Director at the National Association of Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage Producers (NAMSMAP), accomplished this earlier this year by simply sending a letter to the editor of his local newspaper.
“I couldn’t believe the response I got from people the day it was printed, and for several days after,” Iverson told NAMSMAP members, and added that the letter was shared with all the newspapers owned by that company in his home state of Montana.
He recommended all NAMSMAP members give it a shot, and also provided permission to share his actual letter (which would need to be customized to your own state) with the Insurance Forums audience. I like this idea for a few reasons:
1 – Many seniors still intently read their local newspaper
2 – Local newspaper editors – always on the lookout for content of interest to their readers – are likely to print it
3 – Ron Iverson said it generated a great response, and I’ll take his word for it
So without further adieu, here is his letter (I added the example headline):
Beware of scammers trying to take advantage of change to Medicare cards
To the Editor:
There is great news for Medicare enrollees, and a bit of caution regarding scammers. The good news is that Medicare will be sending out new Medicare cards to each recipient. The cards will arrive sometime between April 1st of this year and will be completed by April 1st of next year.
The new cards will not have the enrollee’s Social Security number on them, as they do now. This is a major accomplishment for Medicare and is being done to help put a stop to identity theft via Social Security identification numbers. This problem has been rampant nationally and is very serious business for Medicare enrollees who have had their cards compromised by internet bandits.
The new cards will have an encrypted 11-digit number that even the holder will not be able to “unencrypt.” So that is good news. I understand that Montana will be in the second wave of states being sent the new cards, and that delivery is scheduled to begin May 1st.
But, along with the good news, bad news sometimes seems to follow. The bad news is that Medicare scammers have already jumped into the game. There is more than one technique involved, but these are the two most used:
- First, scammers are calling Medicare recipients, sometimes identifying themselves as Medicare or “government” officials, and telling them that the new cards are coming out, but that they will have to send $30-$50 to get the new cards. That is bogus — there is no charge for the new cards — and CMS/Medicare does not call people — it only uses the U.S. Postal Service to communicate.
- The second technique is for the scammer to say that they have a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plan available, but then request personal Medicare information so that the new plan can be utilized. This is also bogus. Whatever you do, do not fall for this. Medicare information is personal, and the scammers simply use it for other nefarious activities.
So, we don’t know when or how the scammers will spring into operation in Montana, or the Helena region. But if you receive one of these calls, just hang up, and report the activity with a call to 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). And…above all, do not feel pressured to respond to any of these calls—the scammers are well trained in intimidation and persistency. Don’t fall for it.
Agent Company Name
Help stop Medicare card scammers Part II: Just hang up on cold callers
Just hang up. That’s the advice a national anti-fraud alliance urges for seniors who receive cold calls from scammers trying to steal their identities by exploiting new Medicare cards.
Medicare is mailing new cards with random characters instead of SSNs to nearly 60 million seniors, starting in April. The security measure can prevent medical and financial ID theft by swindlers who steal seniors’ SSNs from the cards.
Yet con artists are cold calling seniors around the U.S. about the new cards. They’re trying to pirate the seniors’ SSN, bank account numbers and credit card information, warns the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.
That information lets scammers steal a senior’s medical and financial identities. The ripoffs can ruin their credit, drain their bank and Medicare accounts, and jeopardize their financial wellbeing.
Callers pretend they’re from Medicare, and request seniors’ personal identifiers. Among the pitches:
- You must pay for your new Medicare card now or else you’ll lose your Medicare benefits.
- Medicare is updating its files and needs your bank and credit card numbers.
- Medicare is confirming your Social Security number before you can receive your new card.
- Medicare needs your bank information to send you a refund on your old card.
Watch for emails and texts delivering similar pitches.
Scammers prey on confusion about the new Medicare cards. Three of four seniors know little or nothing about the cards, an AARP survey says. Six of 10 seniors think they must pay a fee. Half might not question a call from a claimed Medicare rep.
The Coalition offers this advice:
- Just hang up. Medicare won’t phone you about the cards. They’re also free, and nor do seniors have to report or verify info to Medicare.
- Sign up for an alert that Medicare has mailed your new card.
- Destroy your old Medicare card when your new card arrives.
The new Medicare cards will better protect your identity without an SSN. With common-sense safeguards, you can let the cards do their work well.
The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud is a nonprofit alliance of consumer groups, insurance companies and government agencies combating all forms of insurance crime.