California seniors enrolled in Medicare are receiving new Medicare ID cards which no longer use their, or their spouse’s, individual Social Security Number as the personal identifier. Instead, the personal identifier is being replaced with a series of random letters and numbers. This change was mandated by Congress several years ago as a way to protect seniors from identity theft.
The first cards being sent to California residents went out the second week in June, and it will take about a month to mail new cards to all California Medicare beneficiaries.
But identity thieves are already at work, and the HR & Church Compliance Ministry does not want you or any of your church members to fall victim to any of the scams being used to obtain a new Medicare identifier.
The most common scam anticipated by the Social Security Administration involves your telephone, and is very similar to calls that attempt to obtain a person’s ATM card PIN number. It goes something like this:
Identity Thief: “Mr./Mrs. Jones?” (of course they know the person’s first and last name)
Thief: “This is Mr./Ms. Anderson calling from Medicare. How are you today?”
Senior: “Fine, thank you.”
Thief: “I’m calling about your new Medicare ID card. Have you received it in the mail yet?”
Depending on the answer, yes or no, there are two variations on the remainder of the call.
Senior: “Yes, actually, it came just the other day.”
Thief: “Great! I hope you put it in a safe place. You know, there are evil people out there trying to steal your identity every day, and that’s why we changed the numbers on your card. Did you read or hear about this change?”
Senior: “I think so.”
Thief: “Great! We just need to make sure your card hasn’t already been stolen and that you haven’t received a fake ID card. Do you have your new card handy?”
Senior: “It’s in my wallet.”
Thief: “Perfect. Can you get it? I just need to verify that you have the real card, and not one of the fakes.”
Senior: “OK, just a minute.”
You know where this call is going. The thief will get the senior’s new Medicare identifier with virtually no effort.
Senior: “No, it hasn’t come yet.”
Thief: “Oh, wow. Our records show it was mailed to you about three weeks ago. Your card might have already been stolen.”
Senior: “Oh no. What do I need to do now?”
Thief: “Don’t worry, it’s not a problem. I’ll just have the computer cancel the number and send you a replacement card. It will take a week or two for you to get it in the mail. You know how that goes. Can you just verify your Social Security Number for me?”
Senior: “Sure.” (Now the thief has the senior’s Social Security Number, too.)
Thief: “I’m going to put you on our call-back list, and I will give you a call in about three weeks to make sure you got your new card. Is that OK?”
Senior: “Yes. Thank you.”
Thief: “No problem. Have a nice day.”
The “replacement” Medicare card arrives in the mail … because it’s actually the new card that was already on its way. In a few weeks, the second call will come, and because the senior is expecting it, he or she will probably give up the new identifier without even thinking about it. Identity stolen, effortlessly, in less than five minutes.
The problem is simple: representatives of Social Security and Medicare do not make outbound phone calls like this. EVER! These are known as COLD CALLS … calls made without having been requested.
Social Security and Medicare, like the IRS, initiate all communication via postal mail, NEVER by telephone or email; at least not an initial phone call like this. The only time a person might receive a phone call from Social Security or Medicare is in response to a form submitted by a beneficiary. If you did not contact Social Security or Medicare first, they will never contact you by telephone.
If you, or a senior you know such as a parent or grandparent, ever receive a phone call like this, simply hang up. Don’t even engage the person in conversation. It’s not rude … you’re fighting crime. And don’t be surprised if your caller ID displays “Social Security” or “Medicare.” You can be assured it is a fake call … there are “spoofing” devices and software that can unlawfully mask a caller’s true identity.
It’s virtually impossible to catch thieves like this, but you can at least prevent them from victimizing you or another senior by being aware of scams like this, and by NEVER giving your personal information to anyone who has called you.