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New Medicare cards with big change en route to millions of Floridians

Officials are warning of scams associated with the new cards.

New Medicare cards are on the way to millions of Floridians this week with a change reformers say is long overdue: There is no Social Security number on it, to reduce chances for fraud and ID theft.

Just watch out for one twist.

Beware of anyone calling or knocking on the door seeking personal information or a fee to provide the new card, officials say.

READ MORE: Scam calls about pain medicine target Florida Blue customers, seniors

The card is free, does not have to be requested, works right away and comes by mail, according to a federal advisory seconded by area agencies advising seniors.

“They should not take calls from anyone asking for their personal information,” said Darlene Forage, project director for Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders, or SHINE, of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

No one from the government will be “coming to their door asking about it,” she said.

Questions? Call SHINE at 866-684-5885.

Or call Medicare at 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).

READ MORE: Floridians charge to N0. 2 in credit use as area counselors gear up

Make no mistake: Medicare fraud and billing errors involve big money, adding up to somewhere near $60 billion annually, federal auditors estimate.

Medicare cards have long been abused as one entrance ramp to financial misdeeds, but Congress did not get around to shoring up the cards’ security by deciding to remove the Social Security number until 2015. The changes have been phased in since.

Medicare has been rolling out the new cards in waves this year, and most of Florida’s 4 million Medicare beneficiaries will start getting theirs this week, officials say.

A few seniors in the state have already received them, but big mailings are underway this month and in September for Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

Those new to Medicare started to receive new cards in April.

The new cards feature unique identifying numbers instead of Social Security numbers, said Angela Brice-Smith, regional administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“This change not only protects Medicare patients from fraud, but also safeguards taxpayer dollars by making it harder for criminals to use Social Security numbers to falsely bill Medicare for care services and benefits that were never performed,” she said.

What should you do with the old card? Maybe it’s not the best thing to keep lying around as a memento. Shred it or cut it up with scissors, officials say.

Want email notification about when your card should be arriving? Sign up at this Medicare website:

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