A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Keep a close eye on your mailbox; your new Medicare card coming with special identifier

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

Everyone enrolled in Medicare should keep a close eye on their mailbox because new cards with new Medicare numbers will be delivered soon. Instead of using a recipient’s Social Security number, a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will be automatically added to the card, meaning that enrollees are not required to do anything.

The reason behind the move is to better protect Medicare customers from medical identity theft. This is when someone uses a person’s name and insurance information without their permission to obtain medical services or goods.

Medical identity theft is often difficult to fix for victims after the fact because they have limited rights and recourse.

Last year, approximately 2 million Americans fell victim to medical identity theft. According to a survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute, it takes a victim an estimated 200 hours and over $13,500 on average to resolve an identity breach.

One frequent method fraudsters use is to pose as employees from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) or another false agency with a similar-sounding name. They’ll typically claim Medicare card holders are being issued new cards and they will offer to replace their current cards. The scammer then states that in order to receive the new card, the recipient has to verify or update sensitive information – including their Medicare number – which is associated with a Social Security number. Medicare officials have stated they don’t contact patients and ask for personal information like their Medicare or Social Security number via phone or email.

If you haven’t requested information from the organization or haven’t asked for an agent to contact you, BBB advises against reacting to a sales pitch from an uninvited source.

Federal law prohibits sales communication of any kind – this includes phone calls, emails, or door-to-door drop-ins – with someone if they have requested not to be approached with solicitation messages.

If someone tries to sell you something on behalf of Medicare or is requesting your personal information, contact the Office of the Inspector General and report that person. BBB also recommends reporting any Medicare fraud to Medicare.gov/fraud and to scamtracker.org

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