Recent Developments in D.C. To Combat Financial Abuse of the Elderly

March 15th, 2018

Recent Developments in D.C. To Combat Financial Abuse of the Elderly

by Robert M. Jaworski, Esq.

Financial abuse of the elderly is getting some attention in Washington these days, and, some say, it’s about time.  On February 22, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and law enforcement partners announced[1] the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.  In addition, it was reported[2] on March 13, 2018, that an elder fraud bill sponsored by Senate Aging Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) was recently folded into the banking regulation bill (S. 2155) that is expected to be approved by the Senate in the near future.  Details concerning both of these developments are set forth below.

Nationwide Elder Fraud Sweep Coordinated by the Department of Justice

The cases, which include criminal, civil and forfeiture actions, involve more than 250 defendants from around the globe. They are charged with victimizing more than a million Americans, most of whom are elderly.  Of the defendants, more than 200 have been charged criminally.

The actions charged a variety of fraud schemes, including large scale mass mailing, telemarketing and investment frauds, as well as individual instances of identity theft and theft by guardians.  One case alone concerned a scheme that operated from 14 foreign countries and resulted in losses to American victims totaling more than $30 million.

Mass mailing schemes.  In each of the mass mailing schemes, fraudsters sent direct-mail letters to individuals falsely promising them that they had won cash or other valuable prizes.  All they had to do to claim their prizes was to send back a payment for what was represented as processing fees or taxes. The letters appeared to come from legitimate sources, typically on official-looking letterhead, and to have been personally addressed to each recipient. When an individual took the bait and sent the requested fee, the fraudsters simply kept the money.  No victim ever received a promised prize.  Worse yet, when people showed a susceptibility to these scams, the fraudsters repeatedly targeted and victimized them with other scams.

Other Schemes.  Other examples of elder financial exploitation schemes prosecuted by the Department of Justice include:

  • “Lottery phone scams,” in which callers convince seniors that a large fee or taxes must be paid before one can receive lottery winnings;
  • “Grandparent scams,” which convince seniors that their grandchildren have been arrested and need bail money;
  • “Romance scams,” which lull victims to believe that their online paramour needs funds for a U.S. visit or some other purpose;
  • “IRS imposter schemes,” which defraud victims by posing as IRS agents and claiming that victims owe back taxes; and
  • “Guardianship schemes,” which siphon seniors’ financial resources into the bank accounts of deceitful relatives or guardians;

The Department of Justice indicates that it has partnered with Senior Corps to educate seniors about these types of scams and prevent further victimization.  Senior Corps is a national service program administered by an independent federal agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).  You can access information on Senior Corps’ efforts to reduce elder fraud by clicking here.  If you suspect that you are a victim of a scam, you can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission by clicking here.  Finally, remember that the best way to avoid becoming a victim of a scam is to be skeptical of anything that sounds too good to be true.  It probably is too good to be true!  Check it out first.

Senator Collins Elder Fraud Bill

This bill, Senate Bill S-223[3], which is called the “Senior$afe Act of 2017,” strives to prevent elder financial abuse by encouraging financial institutions (including credit unions, insurance agencies, banks, investment advisers, and broker-dealers) and their employees to sound an alarm bell whenever they suspect that an elderly person is being financially exploited.  The bill seeks to accomplish this objective by immunizing these institutions and employees from potential liability in any civil or administrative proceeding for disclosing such suspicions.

This immunity, however, is subject to the following conditions:

  • The disclosure is made only to a State or Federal banking or securities regulator, a State insurance regulator, a law enforcement agency, and/or a State or local adult protective services agency.
  • The disclosing employee must be a supervisor or compliance officer employed by the financial institution at the time of the disclosure and have made the disclosure in good faith and with reasonable care.
  • The disclosing employee must have previously received training from the financial institution, appropriate to the employee’s job responsibilities, concerning (1) how to identify and report suspected exploitation of a senior citizen internally and, as appropriate, to government officials or law enforcement authorities, including common signs that indicate the financial exploitation of a senior citizen, and (2) the need to protect the privacy and respect the integrity of each individual customer of the financial institution.

Interestingly, New Jersey already has a similar law on the books, which dates back to 1998.  The New Jersey Foundation for Aging helped to educate concerned individuals and agencies about that law following its enactment.


Mr. Jaworski is a member of the NJFA Board of Trustees and an attorney with the law firm Reed Smith, LLP.  He specializes in providing banks and other financial institutions with advice and assistance concerning their responsibilities to comply with applicable federal and state laws and regulations, including, in particular, consumer protection laws and regulations.




MEDICARE — 2018 and Beyond

February 27th, 2018

MEDICARE — 2018 and Beyond

By Charles Clarkson, Esq. Project Director/VP, Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County

New Medicare Cards

Starting in April 2018, new Medicare cards will be issued. These new cards will remove the Social Security numbers from the cards. This is a significant change for Medicare and it holds the promise of substantially reducing fraud, both in Medicare and in general. The cards will look similar to the current ones with some style changes (See photo).

When beneficiaries get their new cards, they should start using them. Not all beneficiaries will receive their new cards at the same time. A year has been allocated to issuing approximately 57 million new cards, through April 2019. There will be a transition period (through December 2019) when both the old and new Medicare cards can be used. Of course, beneficiaries will still have to protect their new cards.

The card will now contain a new Medicare number (called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier) selected at random and made up of letters and numbers. This card allows access to Medicare services and should be protected at all times. Beneficiaries should leave their Medicare cards at home whenever possible and take them with them only when they need medical services.

The SMP of New Jersey is very concerned about fraud involving the new Medicare cards. We have already heard of cases when beneficiaries have been scammed into paying for the new Medicare cards. Remember, the new Medicare cards will be FREE. You do not have to do anything to receive the new card. Make sure that the Social Security Administration has your current address to ensure that the card is mailed to the correct address. Medicare or Social Security will not call you on the telephone. Do not give any callers any personal information if they call you about the new Medicare card, especially your checking account information to pay for the card. If you receive a suspicious call, just hang up.

Medicare beneficiaries will receive written explanations in the mail from the appropriate government agencies about the new cards. We can also expect an education campaign on television and radio to explain about the new cards.

For more information visit SMP online at or contact Medicare directly at


November 20th, 2017


The NJ Foundation for Aging has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.

Help the NJ Foundation for Aging (NJFA) to continue it’s mission of enabling older adults to age in the community with independence and dignity. Your support allows NJFA to continue to bring information and resources to seniors, boomers and caregivers via Renaissance magazine, Aging Insights (TV Program) and through our website and social media platforms. Additionally, your donations assist NJFA in creating learning opportunities for professionals serving older adults and caregivers with our Annual Conference and other educational forums.

Occurring this year on November 28, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the US) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick off the holiday giving season and inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.

Won’t you join the movement and support NJFA on #GivingTuesday?

Thank you for your support and have a VERY Happy Thanksgiving!


October 25th, 2017



Charles Clarkson, Esq. Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County, Project Director/VP, Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey


Every year between October 15 and December 7, during a period known as “Open Enrollment,” Medicare beneficiaries can make changes in their Medicare coverage. The Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey (SMP), a Federally funded program of the U.S. Administration for Aging, believes that if you know your options you can avoid being scammed and make the right choices giving you the best coverage at the least cost.

Why make a change?  Whether you have Original Medicare (Part A and/or B), Part D (prescription drug plan), or a Part C Medicare Advantage Plan, your plan can change.  Premiums, deductibles  and coverages can all change.  Even if they remain the same, your health or finances may have changed. SMP encourages all beneficiaries to re-visit their coverage and decide whether or not to change during Open Enrollment.

Beneficiaries have these choices:

  1. If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, you can change to a Medicare Advantage plan with or without drug coverage. These plans are private companies approved by Medicare and give you the services of Original Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you do not need (and are not permitted) to have a Medicare supplement insurance plan (also known as a Medigap policy) and if your Medicare Advantage plan has drug coverage, you will not need a Part D plan.


  1. If you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or drop your Medicare Advantage Plan.  If you decide to drop a plan and not switch to another plan, you will be enrolled in Original Medicare.  You should then consider enrolling in a Medicare supplement insurance plan to cover the costs that Original Medicare does not pay for and enroll in a Part D plan for drug coverage.


  1. If you are in Original Medicare with a Part D plan, you can stay in Original Medicare and switch your Part D plan.


  1. If you are in Original Medicare and do not have a Part D plan, you can enroll in a Part D plan.  If you join a Part D plan because you did not do so when you were first eligible for Part D and you did not have other coverage that was, on average, at least as good as standard Medicare drug coverage (known as creditable coverage), your premium cost will be penalized 1% for every month that you did not enroll in Part D.  You will have to pay this penalty for as long as you have a drug plan.  The penalty is based on the national average of monthly premiums multiplied by the number of months you are without coverage and this amount can increase every year.  If you qualify for extra help (low income subsidy), you won’t be charged a penalty.

Why change Part D plans?

Beneficiaries may want to change Part D prescription drug plans (PDPs) for a number of reasons:  (i) the PDP has notified the beneficiary that it plans to drop one or more of their drugs from their formulary (list of available medications); (ii) the beneficiary is reaching the coverage gap (donut hole) sooner than anticipated and may want to purchase a PDP with coverage through the coverage gap, if one is available; (iii) the PDP has notified the beneficiary that it will no longer participate in the Medicare Part D program;  (iv) the PDP will increase its premium or co-pays higher than the beneficiary wants to pay and a less expensive plan may be available and (v) a beneficiary is not happy with the PDP’s quality of service or the plan has received low rankings for a number of years.  For 2018 beneficiaries in New Jersey can expect to choose from a number of  PDPs. The plans are announced in late September or early October, 2017.

Compare plans each year.

Beneficiaries should remember that PDPs change every year and it is recommended that beneficiaries compare plans to insure that they are in the plan that best suits their needs.  When comparing plans, keep in mind to look at the estimated annual drug costs, i.e. what it will cost you out of pocket for the entire year, from January 1 through December 31 of each year.  Plans can be compared at the Medicare web site:  If you do not have access to a computer, call Medicare at 1-800-Medicare to assist in researching and enrolling in a new plan. Medicare can enroll a beneficiary over the telephone.  When you call, make sure you have a list of all your medications, including dosages.  Another resource for Medicare beneficiaries is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (known as SHIP), telephone 1-800-792-8820.  SHIP is federally funded and can provide beneficiaries with unbiased advice.  Call SHIP to make an appointment with a counselor. You do not need to use a broker or agent who may not be looking out for your best interest. Brokers and agents are usually being paid to enroll you in certain plans.  Beneficiaries can also call the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey at 732-777-1940.

Medicare Open Enrollment can also be a time of fraudulent schemes that can cost you money. The SMP wants you to be on the alert for scams involving new Medicare cards.  Back in the spring of 2015, Congress passed the “Doc Fix” bill which mainly dealt with the long standing problem of the Physician Fee Schedule.  At the same time, Congress sought to remedy the problem caused by having Social Security numbers on the red, white and blue Medicare ID cards.


The new cards will be rolled out starting in April of  2018.  Since it will take a period of time to mail new Medicare cards to all Medicare beneficiaries, there will be a transition period through December 31, 2018 when beneficiaries will be able to use either card.  All cards should be issued by April of 2019.  You should start using the new Medicare card once you receive it.  Make sure that the Social Security Administration and Medicare have your current address to insure that you get your new card.


This card change is both a blessing and a curse for Medicare beneficiaries.  By removing Social Security numbers, the change greatly decreases the financial havoc that a stolen Medicare card can cause, but it opens the door to scammers  presenting a golden opportunity to take advantage of Medicare beneficiaries.  Remember, there is never a charge for the new Medicare card.  Scammers already are calling  and scaring seniors into paying $300 or more for a new Medicare card and asking for their checking account information to pay for the new card’s fee.

What do you do when you realize that a scammer is calling?  Just hang up.  Do not be polite and just hang up.  Also, do not open any emails about the new Medicare cards even if they appear to be coming from a legitimate source, such as Medicare.  They are most likely scams.  Any questions about the new Medicare cards, call the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey at 732-777-1940.







Hurricane Season- Be Prepared

August 17th, 2017

Hurricane Season- Be Prepared


Hey, the tree is down, the power is out; are you ready? The August episode of Aging Insights addresses that question. On this program NJFA’s Executive Director, Grace Egan speaks with Melissa Acree Executive Director of NJ 211and Mike Weber, Emergency Preparedness Manager – Electric from PSEG. Register Ready is a program hosted by NJ 2-1-1 that enables people to self-identify and register that they may have difficulty in an emergency evacuating their home to safe place or to a shelter. Caregivers may also register their loved ones who have a physical or cognitive impairment. This information is then shared annually with the County Office of Emergency Management Office.

PSEG partners with NJ 2-1-1, Mr. Weber joined the interview and explained how PSEG prioritizes repairs in a storm. He highlighted the many first responders that PSEG regularly works with before, during and after a storm.

It’s now the peak of hurricane season. With that comes the threat of an active

September and the possibility of activity in October and beyond, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.

Hurricane season officially begins June 1, and generally, the peak is from mid-August to the end of September. During this time, conditions are ideal for strong and quick-moving tropical storms, hurricanes and depressions.

Check on the latest Aging Insights episode about emergency preparedness. Are you prepared? Does your utility company know your needs?


A few words from the Social Security Administration

June 21st, 2017

A few words from the Social Security Administration- Beneficiary Codes

The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that following situation has occurred many times over the years: a client (or an organization) contacts SSA about a letter from SSA which contains a Social Security Number (SSN) followed by the letters “A”, “B”, “E” or other letters, and then asks me to explain what type of benefit is indicated by the letter following the SSN. As this seems to be a common question, SSA thought they should address the question publicly.

NJFA thought the information they shared was valuable and so we are posting it here to our blog.

Letters that come after a SSN are called “Social Security beneficiary codes.” A list of the Social Security beneficiary codes which includes the meaning of each code is located on SSA’s website at Social Security Online. By reviewing the Social Security website, you will find that the SSN followed by one of these beneficiary codes is actually a claim number. Social Security assigns a beneficiary code to a SSN after an application for Social Security benefits is filed. These beneficiary codes may appear on correspondence from Social Security or on Medicare cards. However, the codes will never appear on a Social Security card. For example, if the wage earner applies for benefits and his or her SSN is 123-45-6789, then the applicant’s claim number is 123-45-6789A. This number will also be used as the wage earner’s Medicare claim number, once he or she is eligible for Medicare. If the wage earner’s spouse subsequently files for benefits on the wage earner’s SSN, the spouse’s claim number is 123-45-6789B. A list of the most common Social Security codes and their meanings follow:

Code Identification
A Primary claimant (wage earner)
B Aged wife, age 62 or over
B1 Aged husband, age 62 or over
B2 Young wife, with a child in her care
B3 Aged wife, age 62 or over, second claimant
B5 Young wife, with a child in her care, second claimant
B6 Divorced wife, age 62 or over
BY Young husband, with a child in his care
C1-C9 Child – Includes minor, student or disabled child
D Aged Widow, age 60 or over
D1 Aged widower, age 60 or over
D2 Aged widow (2nd claimant)
D3 Aged widower (2nd claimant)
D6 Surviving Divorced Wife, age 60 or over
E Widowed Mother
E1 Surviving Divorced Mother
E4 Widowed Father
E5 Surviving Divorced Father
F1 Parent (Father)
F2 Parent (Mother)
F3 Stepfather
F4 Stepmother
F5 Adopting Father
F6 Adopting Mother
HA Disabled claimant (wage earner)
HB Aged wife of disabled claimant, age 62 or over
M Uninsured – Premium Health Insurance Benefits (Part A)
M1 Uninsured – Qualified for but refused Health Insurance Benefits (Part A)
T Uninsured – Entitled to HIB (Part A) under deemed or renal provisions; or Fully insured who have elected entitlement only to HIB
TA Medicare Qualified Government Employment (MQGE)
TB MQGE aged spouse
W Disabled Widow
W1 Disabled Widower
W6 Disabled Surviving Divorced Wife

Thanks to David Vinokurov District Manager – Trenton, NJ Social Security Administration for helping to keep us informed!


Fifty-Nine Percent of NJ’s Seniors Can’t Cover Their Basic Costs

May 1st, 2017

NJ Foundation for Aging

145 West Hanover Street, Trenton, NJ 08618

Phone 609-421-0206   Fax 609-421-2006  



                                                                        Press Release

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                      Contact:  Grace Egan, Exec. Director

May 1, 2017                                                                                                                                          Melissa Chalker, Program Manager


Fifty-Nine Percent of NJ’s Seniors Can’t Cover Their Basic Costs

Trenton—More than 549,000 seniors over age 65 live alone or in elder couple households. A report released by the NJ Department of Human Services details the cost of living for seniors over age 65 across all of NJ’s counties. By examining these costs a second report Living Below the Line 2017 indicates that “New Jersey’s statewide Elder Economic Insecurity Rate (EEIR) is 59%; nearly six in 10 New Jersey retired elder-only households’ lack sufficient annual incomes to insulate them against poverty as they age. While such insecurity affects elders of all backgrounds, New Jersey EEIRs vary greatly by household type, housing type, race, gender and location.  This data infers that 300,000 seniors who live alone or in an elder couple household do not have sufficient financial assets to cover their basic living costs. Sixty-six percent of these seniors are women. The Living Below the Line Report research notes that the “median annual incomes among NJ retired women vary greatly by race and ethnicity. Median income for White women elders ($18,817) is approximately $4,300 higher than median income for Black women elders ($14,521), $8,930 higher than median income for Hispanic women elders ($9,883), and $6,200 higher than median income for Asian women elders ($12,605)”.

The Data tell us that 30 % of all NJ seniors rely on social security as their sole income. “In addition, non-White seniors rely more heavily than White seniors on Social Security as a source of income, but have on average annual Social Security payments several thousand dollars lower than White seniors’ payments. Seniors of color may also face higher expenses, as they are more likely to be renters”.

It is crucial to connect NJ’s most economically challenged seniors to public benefit programs.  Food and nutrition programs not only offer quality food but also enable seniors to use their limited dollars to cover their other basic costs such as housing. These programs include SNAP formerly known as Food Stamps, congregate meal programs, home delivered meals, the USDA’s Farmers market coupons, etc. Another key support is NJ PAAD, NJ’s Prescription Assistance for the Aging and Disabled. These programs make the difference when seniors are faced with the daily challenge of paying the rent or buying food, paying for utilities or needed prescriptions.

Many NJ seniors who have worked and saved find they face a similar challenge with the widening gap between their costs and income. They are just one catastrophe away from living in poverty.  Connecting seniors to these essential programs can improve the quality of their lives and their overall health status. For a list of county resources go to

To read the two newly reports go to and look for the Final 2015 EESS Index Report and Living Below the Line 2017.

The New Jersey Foundation for Aging mission is promote policy and services that enable older adults to live in the community with independence & dignity. or call 609-421-0206




Scammer Lingo

April 5th, 2017

Scammer Lingo

Here on NJFA’s blog we have featured a few posts about scams, we’ve also done articles in Renaissance and posted scam warnings on Social Media. It seems there is always a new scam or the resurgence of an old scam to be on the lookout for.

But that got us thinking… do we really know what all the terms associated with scams mean? The tactics that scammers use come with their own little lingo. In order to be more prepared and aware- we thought, why not share some of the terms most commonly associated with scams? That way you know what we are talking about when you read about a new scam or a warning of a scam to look out for.

Here is a sampling of terms and their definitions.

Pharming: When hackers use malicious programs to route you to their own websites (often convincing look-alikes of well-known sites), even if you’ve correctly typed in the address of the site you want to visit.

Phishing: The act of trying to trick you (often by email) into providing your personal data or credit card numbers, usually a scammer will pose as a trusted business or other entity.

Ransomware: A malicious program that restricts or disables your computer, hijacks and encrypts files, and then demands a fee to restore your computer’s functionality.

Scareware: A program that displays on-screen warnings of nonexistent infections on your computer to trick you into installing malware or buying fake antivirus protection.

Skimming: The capture of information from the magnetic strip on credit and debit cards by using a “skimmer” devices. These skimmers are secretly installed on card-reading systems at gas pumps, ATMs and store checkout counters.

Spoofing: Scammers can use technology to pose as a specific person, business or agency, this technology allows them to manipulate a telephone’s caller ID to display a false name or number, so that it appears they are calling from a legitimate business or from a local number.

Spyware: A type of malware installed on your computer or cellphone to track your actions and collect information without your knowledge.

As a reminder, if you have been the victim of a scam, contact your local Police Department and/or the Federal Trade Commission  or the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs 1-800-242-5846 or  


Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefits

February 14th, 2017

Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefits

David Vinokurov, District Manager, Trenton, NJ, Social Security Administration

With tax season upon us, many of you have asked about Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefits. Some people have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if you have other substantial income (such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return) in addition to your benefits.

Note: No one pays federal income tax on more than 85 percent of his or her Social Security benefits based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. If you:

  • file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your combined income* is
  • between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
  • more than $34,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • file a joint return, and you and your spouse have a combined income* that is
  • between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits
  • more than $44,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • are married and file a separate tax return, you probably will pay taxes on your benefits.


How can I get a form SSA-1099/1042S, Social Security Benefit Statement?

An SSA-1099 is a tax form we mail each year in January to people who receive Social Security benefits. It shows the total amount of benefits you received from Social Security in the previous year so you know how much Social Security income to report to IRS on your tax return.

If you are a noncitizen who lives outside of the United States and you received or repaid Social Security benefits last year, we will send you form SSA-1042S instead.

Note: The forms SSA-1099 and SSA-1042S are not available for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If you currently live in the United States and you need a replacement form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, we have a new way for you to get an instant replacement quickly and easily beginning February 1st by:

Withholding Income Tax From Your Social Security Benefits


You can ask us to withhold federal taxes from your Social Security when you apply for benefits.

If you are already receiving benefits or if you want to change or stop your withholding, you’ll need a form W-4V from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

You can download the form, or call the IRS toll-free number 1-800-829-3676 and ask for Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the IRS TTY number, 1-800-829-4059.)

When you complete the form, you will need to select the percentage of your monthly benefit amount you want withheld. You can have 7%, 10%, 15% or 25% of your monthly benefit withheld for taxes.

Note: Only these percentages can be withheld. Flat dollar amounts are not accepted.


Sign the form and return it to your local Social Security office by mail or in person.

If you need more information

If you need more information about tax withholding, read IRS Publication 554, Tax Guide for Seniors, and Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.

If you have questions about your tax liability or want to request a Form W-4V, you can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 (TTY 1-800-829-4059).



The New Medicare Cards

February 8th, 2017

The New Medicare Cards

By Charles Clarkson, Project Director, Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey

In 2015, Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. This law requires the removal of the social security numbers from all Medicare cards by April 2019. This new initiative is referred to as the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI.) A new randomly generated Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the social security number. When the initiative gets underway all Medicare beneficiaries will be assigned a new MBI and be sent a new Medicare card.

The primary goal of the initiative is to decrease Medicare beneficiaries’ vulnerability to identity theft by removing the social security number from their Medicare cards and replacing it with a new Medicare MBI which does not contain any other personal information.

The new MBI will have the following characteristics:

i. The same number of characters as the current Medicare number, but will be visibly distinguishable from the Medicare number

ii. Contain uppercase alphabetic and numeric characters throughout the new MBI

iii. For providers, the new MBI will occupy the same field as the Medicare number on transactions

iv. Be unique to each beneficiary (e.g. husband and wife will have their own MBI)

v. Be easy to read and limit the possibility of letters being interpreted as numbers (e.g. alphabetic characters are upper case only and will exclude S, L, O, I, B, Z)

vi. Not contain any embedded intelligence or special characters

vii. Not contain inappropriate combinations of numbers or strings that may be offensive

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees Medicare, has established a transition period during which the Medicare number or MBI will be accepted from providers, beneficiaries, plans, and others. CMS expects the transition period to run from April 2018 through December 31, 2019. After the transition period only the MBI will be used.

Starting around April 2018, CMS will start mailing new Medicare cards. There are approximately 60 million beneficiaries in Medicare. So, CMS will probably mail the cards in phases over a period of time. Remember, as a beneficiary you can still use your current Medicare number during the transition period if it takes awhile to receive your new Medicare card. If a beneficiary is new to Medicare after April 2018 and Medicare has started issuing the new cards, the beneficiary will receive the new MBI. Therefore, healthcare providers must be able accept the new MBIs by April 2018.

Fraud and the new Medicare cards.

The Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey (SMP) wants all Medicare beneficiaries to be aware of possible fraud and scams relating to the new Medicare cards. Remember, CMS and Medicare will never contact you by phone or email to ask for personal information relating to the issuance of the new Medicare cards. Any such contact is a scam. Don’t be taken in. Also, there will be no charge for the issuance of the new Medicare cards. Anyone seeking to have a beneficiary pay money for the new card is a scammer. Be especially careful of anyone seeking to have access to your checking account to pay any fee for the new card. Beneficiaries are especially vulnerable if they are isolated, frail or may have cognitive loss. Caregivers should be on the alert for these kinds of scams. The SMP is currently educating beneficiaries at its outreach events of the issuance of the new Medicare cards. CMS will also be conducting intensive education and outreach to beneficiaries to help them prepare for this change.

The issuance of the new Medicare card is a significant change. If a beneficiary or caregiver has any questions about the SSNRI, please don’t hesitate to call the SMP at 1-877-SMP-4359 (1-877-767-4359) or 732-777-1940. A beneficiary or caregiver can also email me at