For those of you who know me, you know that I have been very frustrated with the federal and state governments for continuing to use Social Security numbers for eligibility, enrollment and participating in Medicare and Medicaid. This includes listing individuals’ Social Security numbers on the Medicare and Medicaid cards.

The good news is that finally, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has figured out a way to take SSNs off of Medicare cards. The bad news is that they won’t start sending new Medicare cards out to beneficiaries until April 2018.

For Medicare recipients, the listing of your SSN on your Medicare card increases your risk for identity theft if your Medicare card or number is lost or stolen. Your Medicare card and any documents that have your Medicare number listed on them should be kept in a secure place and/or shredded when they are no longer needed. Those of you who care for seniors, take heed and assist your loved ones with protecting Medicare data. Scammers prey on seniors through the mail and over the telephone.

In the time between now and when the new Medicare cards are released, the FTC has listed some ways to avoid Medicare scams:

  • Is someone calling, claiming to be from Medicare, and asking for your Social Security number or bank information? Hang up. That’s a scam. First, Medicare won’t call you. Second, Medicare will never ask for your Social Security number or bank information.
  • Is someone asking you to pay for your new card? That’s a scam. Your new Medicare card is free.
  • Is someone threatening to cancel your benefits if you don’t give up information or money? Also a scam. New Medicare cards will be mailed out to you automatically. There won’t be any changes to your benefits.

Updating Medicare cards so they don’t list Social Security numbers is an important step in helping to reduce the risk of identity theft for seniors.