As the federal government undertakes a major initiative to issue new identification cards to Medicare beneficiaries, an AARP survey finds that a majority of those enrollees are at risk of being victimized by fraud schemes designed to capitalize on the card-replacement program.

The year-long effort to mail new ID cards to Medicare recipients began in April. The redesigned cards no longer contain enrollees’ Social Security numbers—a move designed to enhance security and help protect against identity theft. Ironically, the card-replacement program has opened these new opportunities for con artists:

Scammers reportedly pose as Medicare representatives and contact beneficiaries to demand immediate payment via credit card of a processing fee for the new card. No such fee exists.

Scammers falsely say that Medicare needs to verify a recipient’s Social Security number or other personal information before issuing the card. Medicare said it does not make such calls and does not initiate uninvited contact.

Scammers tell beneficiaries that they are due a refund on transactions with their old card and ask them to provide bank account information for the processing of the alleged refund.

There is little public awareness. Three-quarters of those surveyed (76 percent) knew nothing or very little about Medicare’s plan to issue new identification cards.

Six in ten think they could face a fee. Although the redesigned ID cards are free, 60 percent of Medicare enrollees did not know or weren’t sure if they would be required to pay a fee.

Half might not question a purported call from Medicare. When asked if beneficiaries could expect to receive a telephone call from Medicare asking them to verify their Social Security number, half (51 percent) said they weren’t sure.

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