New Medicare cards were supposed to cut down on identity theft. Then scammers got involved

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The federal government is starting to mail out new Medicare cards without Social Security numbers to help prevent identity theft.

They'll feature an 11-digit identification number instead.

Scammers, however, could use the change to try to trick senior citizens.

"We understand that there are actually people calling and even emailing and even text messaging some of our vulnerable population, telling them they have to pay for this new Medicare card or they might lose the benefits, asking for your personal information," said Medicare expert Martha Khlopin.

The free cards will automatically be mailed to anyone who receives Medicare benefits.

"I think it's really, really important that we shine a light on this situation because people may ignore the cards or think they're a fraud because they did not ask for the card," said Khlopin.

The nearly 265,000 Medicare enrollees in Hawaii will be among the first nationwide to receive the identification cards.

A survey by AARP revealed that there is little public awareness about the switch.

"About 75 percent of the people don't know about the new cards. They are coming. It's an improvement, but you still have to protect yourself and protect your information," said Craig Gima, communications director for AARP Hawaii. "You have something new and you have something people don't know about so scammers are going to take advantage of that."

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