As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and you, the community. One way I hope to do that is through this monthly column, where I will provide information and tips on how you can stay safe.
Even though San Diego is the safest it has been in 49 years, crime against senior citizens is up 40 percent in the last five years, according to a recent SANDAG report. So, now that about 5.7 million people will receive new Medicare cards in California, including more than half-a-million people here in San Diego County, it’s important to give warning about the potential scammers waiting in the wings. The new cards no longer have the recipient’s social security number on them. Instead each individual will receive an 11-digit alpha numeric identifier. This is exactly the situation that scammers seize on to commit financial fraud against seniors or the disabled.
In the past few months, my office has stepped up our focus on preventing and fighting various forms of elder abuse – including fraud against seniors. That’s why I want to help protect the benefits you’ve earned as senior citizens, after a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice. Your retirement shouldn’t be stolen by unscrupulous individuals.
When your new card arrives in the mail, here are tips for seniors to protect themselves: • When your new Medicare card arrives, keep it in a safe place. • Con artists may reach out and try to get your new 11-digit Medicare identifier so they can steal your identity and commit fraud; don’t give it to them. • There is no charge for your new card, so don’t pay anyone to send it to you. • Guard your Medicare card like it’s a credit card. • Don’t share or confirm your Medicare number or Social Security number with anyone who contacts you by telephone, email, or in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance. • Medicare will NEVER contact you (unless you ask them to) to ask for your Medicare number or other personal information or to send you a new card. Medicare already has your information. • Don’t ever let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number. If someone calls you and asks for your Medicare number or other personal information, hang up and call 1-800-
MEDICARE. • Give your Medicare number only to those you know should have it (doctors, pharmacists, or your health insurer). • Call 1-800-MEDICARE to report suspected fraud. For those receiving the new cards, here are a few facts to keep in mind: • The social security numbers have been replaced with an 11-digit number. • New cards are still red white and blue. • Benefits are not changing in any way. • Cards come with information about how to use it. • You can start using your card as soon as you get it. • Doctors, pharmacists and health care plans know new cards are coming. • They will ask for your new card when you get treatment. • Look for the cards in the mail and protect that information.
To learn more about protecting yourself from identity theft and health care fraud, visit Medicare.gov/fraud
District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated more than 28 years to serving justice and victims of crime as a prosecutor.