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The federal government is issuing new Medicare cards to all Medicare beneficiaries. To prevent fraud and fight identity theft, the new cards will no longer have beneficiaries’ Social Security numbers on them.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is replacing each beneficiary’s Social Security number with a unique identification number, called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). Each MBI will consist of a combination of 11 randomly generated numbers and upper-case letters. The characters are “non-intelligent,” which means they don’t have any hidden or special meaning. MBIs are confidential like Social Security numbers and should be kept similarly private.

The CMS will mail the cards in phases based on the state the beneficiary lives in beginning in April 2018. In Texas, the new cards should be mailed sometime after June 2018 and should be completely distributed by April 2019. If your mailing address is not up to date, call 800-772-1213, visit www.ssa.gov, or go to a local Social Security office to update it.

Unfortunately, the changeover is attracting scammers who are using the introduction of the new cards as a fresh opportunity to separate Medicare beneficiaries from their money. According to Kaiser Health News, scams to look out for include phone calls from persons:

  • claiming to be from Medicare who are looking for your direct deposit number and using the new cards as an excuse;
  • asking for your Social Security number to verify information;
  • claiming Medicare recipients need to pay money to receive a temporary card; or
  • threatening to cancel your insurance if you don’t give out your card number.

There is no cost for the new cards. It is important to know that Medicare will never call, email, or visit you unless you ask them to, nor will they ask you for money or for your Medicare number. If you receive any calls that seem suspicious, don’t give out any personal information and hang up. You should call 1-800-MEDICARE or your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) to report this type of activity. To contact your SMP, call 877-808-2468 or visit www.smpresource.org.

For more information about the new cards, click here and here.