The government is making some much-needed changes to Medicare over the course of the next couple years, and it’s important that stakeholders get the word out now in order to prevent scams and fraud.

One of the long-awaited changes involves your identifying membership card itself, the government-issued Medicare card. Even now, your Medicare number is the same as your Social Security number, and as such, the number is printed on the front of your card. That means anyone who finds your missing wallet, who’s standing too close when you check out at the pharmacy, or who even sees you open your wallet at a cash register can theoretically gain access to your complete identity.

The new cards will be fully implemented by April of 2019, and here’s the most important thing to remember: there is absolutely no action required on your part for your new card to be issued and a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) to be assigned to you in place of your SSN. Take note again… you will not have to fill out forms, answer a survey, pay a fee, or take any other step.

Yet scammers are hoping that you don’t know that. This type of large-scale change that will affect millions of Medicare recipients is the ideal setting for phishing scams that target your information, your money, or both.

If anyone contacts you via phone, email, popup message online, or text, informing you that you need to hurry in order to avoid losing your Medicare coverage (time-sensitive fear tactics are a favorite scam tool), then it’s a scam that should be reported to your local law enforcement. It’s absolutely vital that the public spread the word and be prepared to answer any concerns from friends or family members regarding updating their Medicare information, loss of coverage, or a fee to receive their new card. Be on the lookout for any attempts to get your information or a fee of some kind in order to keep your health coverage under Medicare.

This shift away from your SSN will help to fight back against medical identity theft, and theft of your PII at a doctor’s office, hospital, or pharmacy.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.