President Obama Signs a Bill that will Reduce the Risk of Senior Identity Theft
The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that a new Medicare card is coming, one that will no longer display a cardholder’s Social Security number, or SSN.
This change is designed to protect seniors from identity theft. President Obama recently signed a bill that requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue new Medicare cards that do not display, code, or embed SSNs. This is important because Medicare advises senior citizens to carry their cards at all times, but doing so makes them more vulnerable to identity theft. If a wallet or purse is lost or stolen, identity thieves have access to an SSN. The newly signed bill gives HHS four years to issue modernized cards to new beneficiaries, and four more years to issue the new cards to existing beneficiaries.
U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, Chairman of the House Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Social Security, has long advocated removing SSNs from Medicare cards. Johnson recently said to the New York Times, “The Social Security number is the key to identity theft, and thieves are having a field day with seniors’ Medicare cards.”
The SSA also recommends removing the SSN from Medicare cards. SSA has noted that with more than 4,500 seniors enrolling in Medicare every day, seniors are vulnerable to identify theft. With a stolen SSN, identity thieves can commit any number of financial crimes in the victim’s name, or they can steal money from the victim. If the victim is a senior citizen, the thief could even target the victim’s Social Security benefits. Thieves might attempt to change the victim’s Social Security direct deposit information, redirecting benefits to other accounts. If they have also obtained an individual’s personal information, they may also try to establish a fraudulent my Social Security account.
The SSA warns that while removing the SSNs from Medicare cards will reduce one risk, other risks remain. Previously, the SSA has warned about other identity theft schemes via phone calls, emails, and social media that target Social Security beneficiaries. As a reminder, the SSA strongly encourages you to verify the legitimacy of text messages, emails, or phone calls by people who say they are from Social Security. To verify the identity of someone who wants your personal Social Security information. Do not hesitate to contact your local Social Security office, or call Social Security’s nationwide toll-free customer service at 1‑800-772-1213. (Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.)