4 seniors: Protecting yourself from identity theft

OKLAHOMA CITY – The government is in the process of removing social security numbers from Medicare cards, but with 58 million beneficiaries, it can be a huge task.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will start sending the new cards next year, but it will take until December of 2019 for all cards to be replaced.

Under the new system, an 11-digit character will replace the current claim number on your card, but your Medicare benefits won’t change.

Officials say scam artists are already hard at work. Some Medicare recipients report getting calls from scamsters who tell them that they must pay for the new card. They then ask for their checking account and Medicare card numbers. If you get one of these calls, don’t give out either number.

Until you receive a new card, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends that you carry your Medicare card only when you visit a health care provider for the first time. Otherwise, make a photocopy of your card and cut it down to wallet size. Then take a black marker and cover the last four digits of your SSN and carry that instead in case of an emergency.

If you lose your Medicare card, you can replace it by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 or contact your local Social Security office. You can also request a card online and should receive it in the mail in about 30 days.

If your Medicare card that contains your SSN gets lost or stolen, you’ll need to watch our for Medicare fraud. Experts suggest checking your quarterly Medicare summary notices for services or supplies you did not receive. You can also check your Medicare claims online or by calling 800-633-4227.

If you spot something suspicious, call the Inspector General’s fraud hotline at 800-447-8477.

If someone uses your SSN to obtain credit cards, loans or other services, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission or call 877-438-4338.