From the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
Over 55 million people receive Medicare benefits, including about 950,000 Minnesotans. In the past, Medicare cards have included beneficiaries’ Social Security Numbers (SSN) to help identify them and process their claims. To help protect against identity theft, Medicare is issuing new cards without people’s SSNs. Unfortunately, scammers are trying to take advantage of the transition to new cards to defraud Medicare beneficiaries.
Changes to the Medicare card
A federal law requires that SSNs be removed from all Medicare cards by April 2019. The new cards will use a unique Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) to identify people rather than their SSN. MBIs will have 11 characters, including a combination of numbers and uppercase letters. An example: 1EG4 TE5-MK73.
What to know
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began sending new Medicare cards to beneficiaries in April 2018 and will continue to do so on a rolling basis until April 2019. New cards are being sent to beneficiaries in waves based, in part, on the state in which they live. According to CMS, Minnesota is in wave three, which will occur sometime after June 2018.
New Medicare cards are sent automatically to beneficiaries. There is no activation process or fee to receive a new card, and beneficiaries do not need to take any action to receive their new card as long as the address they have on file with Social Security is correct. Moreover, CMS states that it will not call beneficiaries and ask them to provide personal or financial information to receive a new Medicare card.
How the scam works
New Medicare cards are being issued to prevent fraud, but con artists are already perpetrating new scams in an attempt to take advantage of the process. The scams vary, but typically begin with a phone call from a scammer posing as a representative of Medicare or another government agency, and attempting to get the beneficiary to reveal personal information. Under one variation, scammers ask a beneficiary to pay a processing fee to receive or activate their new Medicare card. The scammer may even threaten to cancel a beneficiary’s Medicare benefits if they don’t pay the fee. In another variation, the scammer claims that the beneficiary must verify his or her SSN to receive their new Medicare card. The scam artist can use this information to commit identity theft. In yet another variation, the scam artist claims a beneficiary is owed a refund for a transaction on their old card and asks the beneficiary for his or her bank account information to process the supposed refund. The scammer can use this information to drain the beneficiary’s bank account.
Who to contact
If you receive a suspicious call, hang up and report the incident to CMS by calling 800-633-4227. People targeted by this scam are also encouraged to report the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation by calling 763-569-8000 and the Federal Trade Commission by calling 877-382 4357.
For additional information, contact the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson at 445 Minnesota Street, suite 1400, St. Paul, Minn., 55101; 800-657-3787; TTY at 651-297-7206; or 800-366-4812.