Identity fraud is a major problem. According to the Insurance Information Institute, there were 445,000 identity theft complaints filed in 2018. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is issuing all enrollees a new Medicare card to help protect your privacy and prevent identity fraud.

Here’s what you need to know about the changes to your Medicare card and what you can do to keep your information safe.

What is the new Medicare card?

In April 2018, CMS began mailing enrollees a new Medicare card. In the past, Medicare used your Social Security number as your ID number; anyone who had access to your card also had access to your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is a potential gold mine to identity thieves, so CMS removed it to reduce your risk.

The new Medicare card has a medical ID number that’s unique to you. It uses a combination of 11 letters and numbers, and it replaces your Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board number for Medicare claims and billing processes. You’ll need to show your new Medicare card to your doctors and other health care providers whenever you get care.

When will I get my new Medicare card?

The transition period for switching to the new card from the old one ends on 12/31/19. If you are currently enrolled in Medicare, you should have your new Medicare card by now. CMS began mailing them out on a rolling schedule in 2018; your card was mailed to the address you have on file with Medicare. If you’re enrolling in Medicare for the first time, you’ll get the new Medicare card automatically.

If you haven’t received your new Medicare card, log into your account online to get your number. You can even print a copy of your new card from the website. If you don’t have a account and don’t want to create one, call 1-800-MEDICARE to request your new card.

What should I do with my old card?

You should destroy your old Medicare card as soon as your new one arrives. As of 1/1/2020, you’ll need to present your new Medicare card when you get care. If you visit the doctor or hospital and you don’t have your new Medicare card, your provider may be able to contact Medicare to get your new ID number. You shouldn’t count on that, however, so take steps now to make sure you have your new Medicare card when the transition period ends on 12/31/19.

How can I prevent Medicare identity theft?

Medicare fraud cost taxpayers $52 billion in 2017 according to the Government Accountability Office. You can do your part to prevent Medicare identity theft and fraud by protecting your new Medicare card. Don’t give your Medicare card to anyone except your health care provider. Scammers have lots of tricks to get your private Medicare information, so be on guard.

Medicare reminds everyone of the following:

  • Scammers often call and promise to give you free health services in exchange for your Medicare number. Don’t give your Medicare information to anyone over the phone, unless you are the one who placed the call and you know who you are talking to.
  • Medicare will never call you and ask for your Medicare number or other personal data unless you’ve given them advanced permission to do so.
  • Medicare agents can’t take enrollment information over the phone unless you’re the one who placed the call.
  • Don’t show anyone who comes to your door your new Medicare card or Social Security card. Medicare agents never come to your home.

The Federal Trade Commission, which helps law enforcement prosecute medical identity theft, recommends everyone takes the following steps to help protect against Medicare fraud:

  • Read every Explanation of Benefits (EOB) or Medicare Summary Notice as soon as you receive it. Make sure the bill accurately reflects the care you received. Be alert for claims for services you didn’t get and report them to Medicare or your Medicare Advantage plan right away.
  • If you think someone is fraudulently using your Medicare information, ask for copies of your medical records and an accounting of disclosures. This is a list of everyone who has received copies of your records and where they were sent; you can get one free every 12 months. Review it for unauthorized or suspicious disclosures.
  • Don’t enter your Medicare ID or Social Security number on a website unless you know why it’s needed and how it will be used.
  • Keep medical and insurance records in a safe place at home. Shred old forms and statements before you throw them away, and either remove the label from old prescription bottles or black out your name and information before you dispose of them.

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