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New Medicare Cards Guard Against Identity Theft

The new Medicare cards have an 11-digit Beneficiary Identifier number. (Medicare.gov)
The new Medicare cards have an 11-digit Beneficiary Identifier number. (Medicare.gov)
April 3, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Medicare is sending out new identification cards that no longer display enrollees' Social Security numbers. Pennsylvania residents will be among the first to receive the new cards that assign each person a randomly generated eleven-digit number.

Joanne Grossi, president of AARP Pennsylvania, points out that Social Security numbers are the keys for access to personal financial records, medical information and legal documents. So if a card with a Social Security number on it was ever lost or stolen, the enrollee could easily fall victim to identity theft.

"Every time you're giving over that personal Social Security number, it's an opportunity for either an individual or a hacker to use it for opening credit cards or getting a loan," she warns.

She says once the new card arrives, the old card should be destroyed. But if you're on a Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription plan, those are separate so be sure to keep those cards.

Pennsylvania Medicare enrollees should receive their new cards by June 30. Grossi adds that it won't be necessary to memorize the new identification number.

"One of the benefits of this new card is if you leave it at home, you've forgotten it, the doctor's staff is going to be able to look up your new Medicare number on a secure computer site," she explains.

The new numbers are linked to existing Medicare accounts, so all your current information will still be available to your doctor.

Finally, it's important to know that the new cards will be mailed out automatically. Grossi cautions everyone to be on guard against scams that may try to get personal information.

"Medicare will never call you," she adds. "So if anyone phones you claiming to need additional information from you in order to get your new Medicare card, this is a scam and they are attempting to commit fraud."

Nationally, the transition to the new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier numbers should be complete by April of next year.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA