SHREVEPORT, LA (AP) - Medicare recipients soon can expect to see new cards in their mail.
Recipients in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas can expect their replacement cards to be mailed out sometime after this month, the government says.
The replacement cards were issued after Congress called for a change to help combat identity theft.
However, the new cards are causing a frenzy for scammers looking to take advantage of vulnerable card holders.
Jerome and Leola Johnson are among the 57 million Americans who use Medicare for health coverage.
The Shreveport couple have yet to receive their new cards, which now feature an 11-digit member ID number instead of their Social Security numbers.
"When you have the Social Security number out there, they can do anything they want," Jerome Johnson said. "I mean, they can open up accounts, mess your credit up, you just name it."
Until they get their new cards, the Johnsons will keep checking their mail and being on the lookout for phony phone calls.
"I just don't answer," Leola Johnson said. "They're probably out there trying to reach us, but I don't answer."
AARP recently surveyed more than 800 people who use Medicare.
"We found that 76 percent of the people we spoke to had little to no knowledge of the card replacement plan," said Amy Nofziger, AARP Fraud Watch Network expert.
"We also found out that 60 percent think there might be a fee attached to it. But as I said earlier, this card is free and it will come automatically to you," she continued.
"We also found out that 51 percent of the people we spoke to were unsure if they'd be receiving a call from Medicare.
"You will not be receiving a call from Medicare."
Scammers have used this opportunity to prey on Medicare users who may be unaware of how the new cards work.
The number of reported calls has jumped drastically.
KSLA Investigates found at least five points to remember if you are expecting a Medicare card in the mail soon:
- You will not be asked for a processing fee for a new card. The card is free.
- You will not get a call to verify personal information.
- You do not have to buy a temporary card.
- Do not mail in your old card. If you’re asked to do that, it’s a scam.
- If someone calls saying your new card was lost in the mail, hang up the phone.
"One of the scams that we've heard going around recently is that enrollees are receiving calls from someone claiming to be from Medicare saying they had a refund on their old card and they need to zero out the balance so they just need their bank account information before they can process their new card," Nofziger said.
"We know that is not true. "
Here are three more do's and don'ts for when you get your new Medicare card:
- Do not just throw away your old card. Shred it so no one can get your Social Security number.
- Put your new card in a safe place.
- Start using your card immediately. You do not need to call Medicare or Social Security to activate the card.