Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Scam Alert: Protect Your Medicare Card From Identity Thieves - AARP Bulletin Today

By: Sid Kirchheimer | Source: AARP Bulletin Today

I recently found a wallet in a parking lot. It belonged to a 66-year-old man and held his driver’s license, $47 in cash, family photos, some credit cards and grocery store cards, and two unscratched lottery tickets.

I don’t know if those tickets proved to be winners; the wallet was quickly returned, intact, to its rightful owner.

But if an identity thief had happened upon that brown billfold, the crook would have hit the jackpot because of one more item it contained: a Medicare card.

That card contains the holder’s Social Security number—the holy grail for thieves. With that number, they can secure new credit in the owner’s name, and if that act goes undetected, the owner’s credit history could be damaged.

Credit cards in a lost wallet might also be used for a brief buying spree, but their loss poses little long-term danger. Cardholders are liable for only $50 in fraudulent charges, no matter their amount, and many card issuers waive even that fee when lost or stolen plastic is promptly reported.

The photocopy defense

So, what’s in your wallet?

If you keep your Medicare card in it, consider this advice:

“You should not carry your Medicare card on a daily basis,” advises Linda Foley of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a California-based advocacy group that helps combat identity theft and assists victims. “Instead, make a photocopy and cut out the last four digits of your Social Security number, or use a black marker to hide them.”
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