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Scammers See Opportunity in Rollout of New Medicare Cards

Medicare theft cost taxpayers $60 billion in 2017. (Elien Dumon/Unsplash)
Medicare theft cost taxpayers $60 billion in 2017. (Elien Dumon/Unsplash)
May 25, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – New Medicare identification cards are on their way to Oregonians. Unfortunately, scammers see this as opportunity to take advantage of people.

The new cards, which are rolling out in phases, actually are meant to make people's information more secure by removing their Social Security numbers from the cards and replacing them with Medicare I-D numbers.

Cameron Smith, director of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, says thieves will be calling to tell people they have to pay for a new card, and asking them to provide financial information.

"The best advice that we have is to hang up anytime you get that kind of a call,” says Smith. “Medicare will never call you directly unsolicited. All of their communications is done by the mail. You don't need to do anything to receive this new card with the new number – that will arrive in the mail without you having to do a single thing."

Smith says Oregonians already are receiving cards in the mail. But he cautions people to be patient because they aren't rolling out according to ZIP Code, meaning your neighbor might receive a card before you do.

Smith says medical identity theft is a big problem. That's when someone steals personal information, such as a Social Security number, to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare or other health providers. He says the cost of Medicare theft is huge.

"Almost $60 billion a year is what they estimated for calendar year 2017,” says Smith. “And these are costs that fall on all of us."

Smith says this crime can cost its victims in the form of higher co-payments and deductibles, and even cuts to services. On top of that, taxpayers foot the bill. Smith says people in search of individual help should contact the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance program.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR