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Identity Theft Protection: How to Safely Carry Your Medicare Card

Written by Miranda Marquit on June 24, 2015 in Retirement  |   3 comments

Identity theft is becoming an increasing concern, especially for seniors. In fact, one source of personal information that fraudsters can use to steal your identity is your Medicare card. Part of the problem with Medicare cards is that your health insurance claim number (HICN) under…

SAFELY_CARRY_MEDICARE_CARDIdentity theft is becoming an increasing concern, especially for seniors. In fact, one source of personal information that fraudsters can use to steal your identity is your Medicare card.

Part of the problem with Medicare cards is that your health insurance claim number (HICN) under Medicare is the same as your Social Security number (SSN)—and that full number is displayed on your Medicare card. The Social Security Administration warns consumers to avoid carrying their Social Security card with them, but Medicare cards instruct beneficiaries to carry their card at all times in order to be prepared to show it for billing purposes when they receive care.

While President Obama recently signed a bill that will prevent this number from appearing on Medicare cards, Medicare officials still have four years to start issuing cards with new identifiers and four additional years to issue new cards to current Medicare beneficiaries.

Until then, Medicare cardholders will continue to carry their SSN with them. This is a vital piece of personal information that, if stolen, can be used in a number of ways, from claiming your tax refund to opening credit lines in your name.

How can you reconcile this conflicting information? How do ensure that you receive your benefits without compromising your identity?

How to safely carry your Medicare card

If you want to carry some proof of Medicare on your person, you may want to consider photocopying your Medicare card, says the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. After you photocopy the card, you can cut out the number—except the last four digits. This is similar to how your SSN number is protected on other documents. You will end up with proof of Medicare coverage that you can carry with you, but you won’t be giving away your entire SSN.

You can also make a color copy of your Medicare card with the number deleted entirely.

Alternatives to carrying your Medicare card

You may not have to carry your Medicare card around with you at all. Many healthcare providers now have electronic records, or they keep track of your information once it is entered into their system. You can either take your Medicare card in only the first time you visit a new provider, or you can provide your number to your provider over the phone. (Just watch out for scammers, who might call you to solicit this information.)

You will have to bring your Medicare card with you for your first visit with a healthcare provider. That provider will likely make a copy of the card for their files.

While carrying a copy of your Medicare card with your SSN removed may help better protect your identity, you should never assume that a healthcare provider will accept a photocopy of the card itself. Be sure to check with your individual healthcare providers about their specific policies regarding proof of Medicare coverage.

In the event of an emergency, emergency personnel can’t refuse care until you provide them with your insurance card. You have to provide billing information before leaving the hospital, but you shouldn’t be denied care because you don’t have your Medicare card on your person if an emergency occurs.

How to help better protect your SSN

Even if you don’t carry your Medicare card with you, your SSN could be compromised in other places. To help better protect one of your most sensitive pieces of personal information, be careful to whom you give it.

For example, if a business requests your SSN, ask if there’s another identifier, such as a driver’s license number, that you can use instead. If you absolutely must give out the number, be sure to ask how it will be stored and protected. Also be sure to shred any documents that contain your SSN before throwing them away.

At some point over the next eight years, Medicare cards will no longer display Social Security numbers. Until then, it’s important to carry your card safely and be vigilant about who has access to this important piece of personally identifiable information.

Miranda Marquit is a freelance journalist specializing in financial topics. Read more of her writing on Huffington Post, Wise Bread, AllBusiness, and at her website, Planting Money Seeds. Follow her on Twitter: @MMarquit

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  1. Ms. Mak says:

    It will be a blessing when the social security number is NOT on anything we have to carry in our person for medical service. It is difficult enough to ask that your social security number be protected, and your patient folder is left on a counter for all to see — having your SS# exposed. You can ask for the protection, but you don’t always get it.

  2. Kathy S. says:

    I just received my Medicare card for the first time in the mail today, 8-9-2016, and I was astounded that my Social Security number was on it! It could have gotten lost in the mail or fallen into the wrong hands and put me at risk of identity theft. Unbelievable! My tax man has already advised me to not give out my SSN to even doctors or dentists (even though it’s always on the initial patient information form you have to fill out on the first visit).

  3. D. W. says:

    This is terrible, and unbelievable. No way will I carry this card in my wallet with my SSN on it. May hide copies in my car somewhere, scan it into a hidden file on my cell phone. Laws to remove SSN from insurance cards have been in force for several years, but I guess the Government makes exceptions for itself. I am a physician for 39 years, and spend the last years of my career as a Federal Medical Officer. I am still shocked. If the Department of Defense can remove SSNs from all military IDs, why can’t the DHHS?? Actually the feds have to pay for identity then for about 20 millions of us, up to $1,000,000, because we had our information hacked in both HR and Security clearance database. Neither were as safe as Hilary’s private email server, which no one ever hacked.

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