Health

Scammers target senior citizens ahead of new Medicare cards rollout

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- More than 50 million senior citizens will get a new Medicare card starting in April.

The new cards are designed to better protect seniors, likeĀ 71-year-old Jack Schmitt. He knows he has a new Medicare card coming. The problem is scammers do, too. Schmitt said they have been calling him and his wife, Jeanne Bazar, to fork over some cash.

"The first call came in at 7:15 in the morning," said Bazar, who thought it was one of her grandchildren calling her Leander home. "And we got five by 11 o'clock."

'It's like they assume that because I turned 65, I'm immediately stupid.'

Here's what they say: "You're going to be getting a new card," said the retired business owner. "But, before you get your new card, they can provide that for you for 15 or 20 or pick a number dollars."

Medicare says the scammers are trying to beat the rollout of the new ID cards for seniors, which will only arrive by mail in a couple of months. For the next year, the agency will continue to send out the new cards in phases. Seniors in Texas should start receiving them by the summer.

Congress ordered the new cards because for many years the original cards used social security numbers to identify healthcare recipients. The new cards have a completely different number called the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier, which will use a series of letters.

Another scam asks seniors to mail in their old card before they can get their replacement card. Experts warn falling for this one opens the door for identity theft.

"It's like they assume that because I turned 65, I'm immediately stupid," Schmitt said.

The couple said one thing that keeps them safe is they know a Medicare representative will never call.

"When you realize immediately that this is not good. This is not correct. This is probably a scam. We just end the call," Schmitt said.

Medicare said seniors should destroy their old card once they receive the new one. And although the card has a new unique identifier, cardholders should only give it out to healthcare providers.

 

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