Cold callers try to steal medical, financial IDs, threaten to cut off Medicare benefits

Seniors, watch out. A move to prevent your identity from getting stolen actually is breeding those schemes.

Nearly 60 million seniors will receive new Medicare cards without Social Security numbers over the next year. Seniors are getting red, white and blue paper cards with a mix of 11 numbers and digits instead.

HHS is mailing the cards to keep SSNs from the grubby hands of thieves, who use the numbers to filch seniors’ medical and financial identities.

The biggest fear is that swindlers will try and trick seniors into giving up their SSNs or other info during the one-year phase-in period. Medicare ID scams are hardly new, though the momentous shift could breed all manner of chicanery.

Cheaters are cold-calling seniors, lying they’re from Medicare. The seniors are due for a refund on their old Medicare cards, and need to provide their bank info to process the refund, the crooks say.

Or there’s a fee for the new cards, so just hand over your banking or credit-card info and we’ll gladly take your payment over the phone.

Some callers threaten — you’ll lose your Medicare benefits unless you pay up now.

Other times the claimed Medicare rep wants to “verify” the senior’s SSN.

Text and email pitches are reaching seniors as well.

Medicare won’t contact you by phone, text or email about the new cards. The cards also are free, and nor do seniors have to report or verify info.

Yet three of four seniors know little or nothing about the new cards, an AARP survey says. Six of 10 seniors think they must pay a fee. Half might not question a call from a claimed Medicare rep.

Scammers have cold-called seniors for months during the run-up to the switch. Sleazy pitches are picking up speed with the new cards being mailed.

Staying safe is easy:

• Just hang up;

• Sign up for an alert that your new card was mailed; and

• Destroy your old plastic Medicare card when your new one arrives.

The new Medicare cards are here to protect your identity. With common-sense precautions, you can let the cards do their work well.

About the author: Jim Quiggle is director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud