Seniors just turning 65 may be surprised to find their Social Security number printed on their new Medicare cards, doubling as their Medicare identification numbers. With identity theft experts telling everyone to leave their Social Security numbers at home, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have yet to catch up.
So what is a patient to do, when the backs of Medicare cards recommend carrying them at all times?
Savvy Senior columnist Jim Miller recently tackled that question in Minnesota's Aitkin Independent Age newspaper. His advice includes:
—If you are an existing patient, most health care providers already will have your information in their databases. Bring your card to one appointment and it should be on file from then on. The rest of the time, leave it at home.
—If you feel more comfortable with your Medicare card in your wallet, improvise. Make a photocopy and black out or cut out your Social Security number. Carry that in your wallet instead of your card.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Justice also offer advice on their website, StopMedicareFraud.gov. Their list of common scams to avoid includes:
—If anyone offers you free services, groceries or other items in exchange for your Medicare ID number, say no and walk away.
—If someone calls asking you to take a "health survey" and requests your Medicare number, say no and hang up the phone.
If you don't feel right about a situation involving your Medicare number, report suspected fraud or identification theft to the Office of the Inspector General at (800) 447-8477 or on the office's website.