FBI Portland
Portland Media Office
(503) 460-8060
April 24, 2018

FBI Tech Tuesday—Building a Digital Defense Against Medicare Card Scams

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week, building a digital defense against Medicare card fraud schemes.

Over the years, we have constantly warned people to protect their Social Security number. Don’t give it out unless you have to, and don’t carry your card in your wallet. That’s good advice—but if you have Medicare, then it was good advice that was hard to follow since your Medicare card had your Social Security number right on it.

Help is on the way! Medicare is now changing out all of its beneficiaries’ cards and replacing that Social Security number with an 11-character “Health Insurance Claim Number.” This new card will be paper instead of plastic, and the ID on it will include randomly-generated numbers and uppercase letters. Medicare’s goal is to better protect private health care and financial information with this new system. This new Medicare number will be used for transactions such as billing and for the checking of eligibility and claim status.

The first of the new cards are going out in the mail starting this month, but it could take some time to get them all out—so don’t worry if your neighbor gets hers right away but yours takes a bit of time. It’s important to note that if you are part of a Medicare Advantage plan, you will continue to have that separate card as well. You should carry both with you to facilitate service from health care providers.

Of course, with a new system there are always scam artists looking for ways to cash in. If you receive a call, e-mail, or visit from someone asking for personal information about your Medicare number or plan, about your new card, or about your Social Security number, it is likely a scam. Medicare will never call you uninvited and ask you for personal information to get a new card. You do not have to pay for the new card either. As long as your address is up-to-date, Medicare will send this replacement version automatically.

Another potential twist on this scam: seniors who are told they have a refund due on their old card, which the caller is happy to process as soon as he gets your bank account information. Don’t fall for it!

Here’s what you need to remember:

  • The new card is free—there is no replacement fee or activation fee. Do not pay anyone who says you owe money for the new card.
  • Do not give out personal information, including your Social Security number, to people who contact you unsolicited.
  • If someone calls and threatens to cancel your benefits because you do not yet have a new card, ignore them. Your Medicare benefits and coverage are not changing.
  • When you receive your new card, destroy the old one.
  • If you have any questions about your new card or unsolicited contacts you receive asking for your personal information, contact Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE. You can also find more information at www.medicare.gov/newcard.

Also, if you have been victimized by this scam or any other online scam, you can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.