For obvious reasons, having one’s Social Security Number displayed on the front of a Medicare card carries enormous risks. This is precisely why Medicare has decided to eliminate this practice and replace beneficiary’s existing cards which currently display beneficiaries SSN’s with new cards showing only unique 11-digit numbers. These numbers are randomly applied, and therefore far less susceptible to fraudulent consequences if obtained by a scammer or identity thief. The process of card-replacement gets underway this month.

AARP recently surveyed around 800 people and found that around 3 in 4 senior-aged Americans were unaware of the federal government’s efforts, and 60% of respondents incorrectly believed that they would have to pay some sort of fee for the replacement card.

Over half indicated that receiving such a call would not arouse any suspicion in the least. Medicare will never assess a fee for these cards, and they are delivered for free to all beneficiaries.

The confusion surrounding this has opened the door to con artists and scammers who prey on the vulnerability of trusting seniors. These unscrupulous ne’er-do-wells call the beneficiary posing as Medicare officials. Medicare can already be difficult to navigate, which is why these scammers are getting away with their plan.

How it Works

They’ll ask for verification of the beneficiary’s SSN to begin the process. They may also demand that a processing fee be paid for this “upgrade.”

Scammers may also attempt to obtain bank account numbers by stating that the beneficiary is owed a refund on their old card, and that the new ones will begin with a clean financial slate, so to speak. In order to receive this phony “refund,” the beneficiary will be told that bank account information is required to issue the payment.

Medicare has stressed that they are not placing any calls relating to the card-replacement process, and that any such call is fraudulent. The cards will be delivered by mail, which is the method for delivering any correspondence surrounding the subject.

Additionally, it can’t hurt to reiterate regularly to your senior loved ones that, again, these cards will be sent at no cost to the beneficiary, and that no government agency would ever call and ask you for your SSN or bank account info over the phone.

This line of inquiry ought to raise every red flag and alarm bell you have, regardless of who it’s purportedly coming from. Seniors may need to be reminded of this on a regular basis so that when that call comes in, they will know not to fall into the trap.

Presumably, the new cards will help to mitigate fraudulent activity by protection SSN’s much more effectively. In the meantime, however, predators have been ramping up their activity in order to capitalize on any confusion that may be out there surrounding this, and to maximize their ill-gotten gains before the new, more secure cards are issued to all beneficiaries.

Maintaining Awareness

These variations on the theme of the replacement card scam are widespread, and highly effective, due to the lack of general awareness of the program and initiative. Confusion breeds opportunity for those who seek to victimize seniors, who can sometimes be taken advantage of.

AARP has many resources on its website, including their Fraud Watch Network, which covers this and other common scams that we should all be aware of. This resource also offers an opportunity to sign up for “watchdog Alert” emails for anyone who wants to receive regular updates on new scams that may be on the rise.

It is wise to talk regularly with your senior loved ones about this specific threat and remind them never to give out personal information over the phone. A senior care manager can assist with additional information on the latest scams targeting the elderly.