Security concerns associated with the latest digital technology is a topic we frequently discuss at Senior Care Corner® to raise awareness.
We remind you to secure your senior loved ones’ experiences with social media and internet banking, to make wireless connections secure, to refrain from using unsecured Wi-Fi, and avoid paper statements that can get into the wrong hands if not shredded.
Sometimes we need a reminder that all the threats aren’t in the digital realm, but can exist in things as simple as good old paper ID cards.
The scams perpetrated against our seniors grow daily, with many unscrupulous people trying to take over your senior’s nest egg. It is important to make our seniors aware of how to avoid being the victim of scams, giving money to fake charities, and even answering the door to strangers.
We have reported in the past about how our seniors continue to remain open to identity theft by carrying their Medicare cards, which they are told by the government they need to do.
One would expect that, in this age of technology, our government would do all they can to protect our vulnerable seniors from identity theft.
One would be wrong, so far at least, but that is finally going to change.
Medicare Card Security Risk
The Medicare card that most of our seniors carry around with them in their wallets currently exposes them to identity theft should it be misplaced or stolen, though most are unaware that this little card opens them up to potential risk that can be expensive and time consuming to repair.
After all, their government gave them the card, right?
How could this happen? Their Medicare card uses their Social Security Number (SSN) to identify them. Using this number as an identifier was stopped on other important things like our driver’s license and private insurance cards years ago.
Identity theft can occur when someone gains access to our senior’s (or our own) personal information and uses that information to pose as our senior for financial gain. It is a crime.
Protect from Identity Theft
The consequences of identity theft, which we have personally experienced, can be severe. It’s victims can suffer from ruined credit ratings, drained bank accounts, and has even been known to lead to individuals being arrested and jailed because a criminal used their identity to commit crimes.
At best, identity theft takes time to resolve and leads to emotional stress that many seniors and their already-stressed family caregivers have difficulty handling.
Therefore, doing everything you and your senior can do to take the necessary steps to protect your identity from theft is worth it.
Identity theft can occur even if the crooks don’t get a social security number, but their task is so much easier when they have it. That’s why including social security numbers on Medicare cards and telling seniors they need to carry those cards is exposing them to seemingly unnecessary risk.
Medicare Cards Get Updated
Unfortunately, Medicare continues to use a SSN to identify our seniors because they estimate the cost to change the cards of all seniors to be prohibitive.
Finally, this security risk has gotten the attention it deserves and a change is coming.
Recently, President Obama signed The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.
This bill mandates that social security numbers are to be removed from Medicare cards by April 2019.
The best part is that this Act has set aside funds for this transition which could cost $320 million over four years.
New Medicare cards will be sent out to beneficiaries no earlier than April 2018.
Protect Your Senior’s Identity
Until Medicare is able to provide its cardholders with a card using a unique account number instead of a personal SSN, there are things that you can do to help protect your senior’s identity.
Stop carrying a Medicare card until the change is made!
Your senior probably visits the same doctor and likely hospital and has developed a medical record. Their card is already on file and doesn’t need to be presented at each visit so isn’t needed to be carried around everywhere they go.
If it is needed, the experts recommend we photocopy the Medicare card and cut out or mark over all or part of the social security number. We can tell it to those people who ask that we feel worthy of providing.
Also, you can not be turned away from treatment in an emergency if you don’t have your Medicare card under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). This is a federal law which requires anyone be given emergency treatment regardless of insurance (or producing a card).
Read all credit card and bank statements frequently!
Check for suspicious activity on the cards or the accounts of your senior. The best idea is to manage financial accounts online (with very secure passwords) and stop receiving paper statements that can get in the hands of criminals, either from the mail or the trash.
Contact the company or bank immediately to report any charges or withdrawals that were not made by your senior. Know when the bills are expected and if they don’t come contact the company.
Read your insurance explanation of benefits.
Check through all explanation of benefits or bills for medical care. Be sure that all claims were actually services provided to your seniors.
Shred all compromising documents!
Shred all your senior’s documents, mail, statements, voided checks, etc. that have vital information that can be stolen. Criminals can use this information to take over their identity.
Review credit reports annually
You should review your senior’s credit report annually using a free service. This will let you know who has been looking at it, if any incorrect or felonious charges have been added or if there has been a breach.
Freeze credit bureau files
Freezing credit bureau files stops new accounts from being added by creditors who check credit first. In many states this can be done free and the rest of the states with only a small charge.
Don’t give information over the phone
Educate and remind your senior that the bank will not call, IRS will not call, and no one needs their personal information over the phone.
Don’t tell anyone their social security number, credit card number or banking PIN.
Keep internet secure
Help your seniors use the internet safely, protect passwords, and avoid giving personal information out via unsolicited emails. The bank will not send you an email or ask for your PIN.
Learn more about identity theft and how to prevent it from the Federal Trade Commission.
We encourage you to take steps to keep your senior’s identity secure in their wallet, at home, on the internet, and in the community.