If you’re one of the 60 million Americans enrolled in Medicare, keep an eye on your mailbox. Because of the growing identity theft epidemic, Medicare is required by law to take Social Security numbers off Medicare cards. You’ll automatically get a new one. There’s nothing you need to do as long as your address is up-to-date.

Each person is given a new number unique to each individual. The identifier is 11 characters long and uses a combination of numbers and letters. The new system uses the numbers 0 thru 9. It does not use the letters S, L, O, I, B, and Z.

When you get your new card, destroy the old one and start using the new card immediately. Remember, the card is the only thing that changes. Your Medicare coverage and benefits remain the same.

Medicare says the new cards are much safer, but scammers are already at work. Some people have received calls asking for a fee in order to deliver the new Medicare card. If you get a call like that, don’t fall for it. The cards are free and will be sent to you automatically.

Others have reported calls from people claiming to work for Medicare who ask for a lot of personal information and claim the card won’t be sent unless you provide the information.  Not true. Medicare will never call you uninvited and ask for personal or private information as a requirement to get your new Medicare number and card.

If you get a call from someone asking for personal information, money, or if they threaten to cancel your health benefits if you don’t provide the information, hang up and call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Even though Medicare is trying to prevent your identity from being stolen there are people working just as hard to steal it.

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