The average American visits a doctor four times a year.

Seniors visit a doctor nearly twice that much.

At each doctor visit we are asked to show our identification and our insurance card. For most adults 65 and over, that is their Medicare card.

It’s always been a catch-22. Seniors need to show their Medicare card at the doctor’s office and at the hospital, but they’re cautioned against carrying it with them because it contains their Social Security number.

That number is a crucial piece of information for would-be identity thieves and other types of fraud artists.

To combat this dilemma, the government will be issuing new Medicare cards from April 2018 to April 2019. Current beneficiaries will receive a new Medicare number unique to them—and it will not be their Social Security number.

New cards will be issued beginning with those born back East and continue working their way to California. For example, those born in Massachusetts but now living in California will receive their cards well before those born in California.

You don’t need to take any action to receive your new Medicare card; it will be sent automatically. Your card will be mailed to the address Social Security has on file for you.

During this time, however, it is important to watch out for scams. Medicare will not be calling you to ask for personal information. If you do receive such a call, it is likely a scammer looking to to obtain your Social Security number. You should never give your personal or private information to anyone over the phone.

One way you can help ensure no one is using your Medicare number is to keep a record of your doctors’ visits, procedures, and such, including date and name of the provider, and check it against your Medicare statement. If you suspect someone has been using your number, call (800) MEDICARE (633-4227). Also call the office of the inspector general at (800) HHS-TIPS (447-8477).

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