On Your Side: Risky Numbers

By: Jeff Anderson Email
By: Jeff Anderson Email

News 12 at 6, September 25, 2007

Near Trenton, SC -- If you're one of the millions of Americans with a Medicare Card, you may never have noticed that your Medicare number is the same as your Social Security number.

And, because you're required to carry the card all the time, that could put you at risk for identity theft.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America and some Medicare subscribers say having their Social Security numbers on their Medicare Cards only makes them that much more vulnerable.

George Bird has all kinds of stuff in his wallet. He doesn't carry his Social Security Card, but he does carry his Medicare Card. But really, he might as well carry both. "I got to thinking the Medicare Card is the same number," he said.

That's right, it's the exact same number and he can't leave his Medicare Card behind like he can his Social Security Card.

"On the back, first thing it says is carry card with you when you leave home," Bird said.

That puts people like George at risk for identity theft. If his wallet is stolen, the thief has all the keys he would need to steal George's identity. "They could wipe you out in a minute," he said.

However, Medicare officials tell News 12 that this isn't something that will be changing anytime soon. It would literally take an act of Congress to make it happen.

So 12 On Your Side called a member of Congress, Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss.
He told us: "While it is important for seniors to carry their Medicare Card with them at all times in case of an emergency, their security should not be compromised."

He says he will continue to look into this and work for change. He has even sent a letter to the Medicare offices asking for more information.

George says there is a simple solution to all of this, change the numbers or else a lot of people out there will still be at risk. "My concern is that some people will give that number out when they shouldn't and get in trouble," he said.

You can call your local congressman and voice your opinion on this. In the meantime, make a photocopy of your card and either black out or cut out the last four digits of your social. Then, carry that copy with you instead of your card.

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