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How Medicare exposes you to identity theft

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Printer Friendly VersionHave you noticed that your Medicare card carries a familiar number? The ID number on Medicare cards is the same as your Social Security card. Yet, for decades we’ve all been warned to not carry our Social Security number in our wallets. It’s been decades too since writing a check required a Social Security number. Criminals use Social Security numbers for all manner of things including identity theft and unlike a stolen credit card, your Social Security number is important to you for life.

At a recent networking meeting in Tacoma, Erika Nohavec the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney with Pierce County’s Elder Abuse Unit spoke about just this issue. The problem is that your Medicare card isn’t just an identifier, it’s your proof of insurance. You need it in order to get Medicare to pay for your treatment. So how do you get around it?

One way is to photocopy your Medicare card and cut the photocopy down to wallet size. Then, with a black marker write over the last four digits of your Social Security number and carry the photocopy with you rather than the original. The first time you visit your health care provider you’ll probably need your original so they can make a photocopy for their files but after that your copy should work although it’s always best to check with your provider first.

A new Medicare card is coming. It won’t display your Social Security number and so you won’t have to worry about it but it’s going to take time. A new law  provides money to modernize the cards but gives the Department of Health and Human Services four years to issue the new cards.

The IRS believes that Russian criminals are behind a recent theft that breached 100,000 U.S. citizens’ records.

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