Protecting America’s Seniors from Identity Theft

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Washington, April 20, 2015 | comments

As Chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee, one of my priorities is to protect Americans' identities by protecting their Social Security numbers.

If you have ever had your identity stolen, you know about the frustration, hassles, and struggles you have to deal with as a result of this crime.  Victims can spend years having to prove who they are, including fixing their credit reports and dealing with the IRS.  And in a good many cases it wouldn’t have happened if their Social Security number wasn’t stolen!

You see, the Social Security number is the key to identity theft and the thieves know that.

Unfortunately, our seniors are some of the most vulnerable targets for identity theft. Here’s the problem:  seniors’ Medicare cards currently include their Social Security numbers.  And while Americans are told not to carry their Social Security cards in order to protect their identities in case their wallet is lost or stolen, at the same time seniors are told they must carry their Medicare cards!  This makes no sense, and it puts Medicare beneficiaries – including Collin County’s over 80,000 beneficiaries I represent – at risk!

In fact, back in 2013 then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an ID Theft alert to seniors because crooks were trying to scam seniors into giving their Medicare numbers.  The crooks tried to get the numbers by saying that Medicare was issuing new cards and that the numbers were needed in order to continue to get benefits.

And the risk of identity theft goes beyond the Medicare card.  Every medical record at nursing homes, hospitals, and doctor offices has a Social Security number written on it.  The wholesale amount of Social Security numbers that are available to identity thieves is simply staggering and completely unnecessary.

This is a very serious problem that hurts not only seniors, but their families.  But the good news is that there are some very common-sense solutions we can take to help them.  And that’s exactly what I’ve been working on with my bill, the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act!  It would protect America’s seniors by ending the use of Social Security numbers from Medicare cards once and for all.

I reintroduced the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act earlier this year, and I'm pleased to say that my bill passed Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law on April 14th!

America's seniors being targeted because their Medicare cards lack security is a problem that has gone on for far too long.  Our seniors deserve peace of mind when using their Medicare cards, and now they’ll finally have it!   

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