Fight fraud by guarding Medicare card

If you have Medicare, you can protect your identity and help prevent healthcare fraud by guarding your Medicare card like you would a credit card.

Identity theft arising from stolen Medicare numbers is becoming more common so Medicare is in the process of removing Social Security numbers from its cards and replacing them with a new, unique number for each person with Medicare.

New cards will be mailed between April 2018 and April 2019. The new card won’t change Medicare coverage or benefits, and there’s no charge for it.

But watch out for scammers.

Thieves may try to get your current Medicare number and other personal information by contacting you about your new card. They might use various phony pitches, such as: asking you to confirm your Medicare or Social Security number so they can send you a new card; telling you there’s a charge for your new card and they need to verify your personal information; or threatening to cancel your health benefits if you don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information.

Don’t fall for any of this.

Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by phone, email or by approaching you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance.

Medicare, or someone representing Medicare, will only call and ask for personal information in the following situations:

A Medicare health or drug plan can call if you’re already a member of the plan. The agent who helped you join can also call you.

A customer service representative from 800-MEDICARE can call if you’ve called and left a message or a representative said that someone would call you back.

Only give personal information like your Medicare number to doctors, insurers acting on your behalf, or trusted people in the community who work with Medicare, like counselors from the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

If someone else calls you and asks for your Medicare number or other personal information, hang up and call 800-MEDICARE (633-4227).

There are other steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft that can lead to healthcare fraud.

Don’t let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.

Review your Medicare Summary Notice to be sure you and Medicare are being charged only for items and services you actually received.

Scam artists often try to take advantage of open enrollment season. If someone calls and tries to get you to sign up for a Medicare plan, keep in mind there are no “early bird discounts” or “limited-time offers.”

Don’t let anyone rush you to enroll by claiming you need to “act now for the best deal.” And be skeptical of promises of free gifts, free medical services, discount packages or any offer that sounds too good to be true.

It probably is.

To learn more about protecting yourself from identity theft and healthcare fraud, visit or contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol at

Greg Dill is Medicare’s regional administrator for California.