California residents on Medicare should expect to receive new, more secure insurance cards in the mail by the end of summer, and be on the lookout for potential scams.
Cate Kortzeborn, the deputy regional administrator for Medicare in California, said these new cards, which use randomly generated identification numbers rather than Social Security numbers, are a step in the right direction for preventing fraud. However, scams have been reported across the country in which people are using the new cards as an opportunity to request personal information.
"We never do that. We never call you out of the blue. We never go to your door," Kortzeborn said.
Scammers may ask for personal information, your new Medicare number or for a fee to receive your card, which will automatically come in the mail.
Kortzeborn said there are 188,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Kern County.
Lupe Garcia, the senior Medicare patrol liaison in Kern County, said she has not heard of any scams in the area, but has received word of some in surrounding regions. She advised that people protect their information and destroy old cards immediately upon receiving a new one.
To report a scam, call 1-800-MEDICARE or contact the local office at 661-868-1000.
Cards in California are being mailed out to addresses on record, Kortzeborn said, but will be received at different times. She advised that people wait until the end of summer and then call if they have not received it.
In the interim period, old cards will still be usable.
"It's a monumental project to do something like this," said Kortzeborn, who explained that there are 5.7 million cards to be distributed just in California.
In the meantime, you can check the status of your individual card and update your information by creating an account at mymedicare.gov.
Kortzeborn said this change, which was passed in Congress in 2015, is a "big step forward," even though scammers consistently find new tactics. She added that the new cards do not affect anyone's health benefits.
"Social Security is like the gold standard for identity theft," Kortzeborn said.