The standard advice for people to protect themselves from identity theft is to be sure you don’t carry around documents that can be stolen by a crook.

So when it comes to your Social Security card, please leave home without it — unless there is a specific reason you must have it. We all know that our nine-digit number is the key to opening doors to a lot of our financial information.

But such advice often frustrates those 65 and over.

Why?

Because our government idiotically made people’s Social Security number also their Medicare claim number and put it on their medical card, something that they shouldn’t leave home without.

For years, seniors and consumer advocates begged the federal government to remove Social Security numbers from the cards.

Well, the time has come – or at least will be here in 2018.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revealed the new look for Medicare cards, which will – thankfully –now have a unique and randomly assigned numbers and uppercase letters that replaces the current Social Security-based number. The agency will mail out the cards in April.

“The goal of the initiative to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards is to help prevent fraud, combat identify theft, and safeguard taxpayer dollars,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said.

Read more: Get Ready! Medicare Will Mail New Cards to 60 Million People

Read more: New Medicare cards are coming

As the rollout continues, please be careful of the scams that are sure to crop up.

“Scam artists may try to get your current Medicare number and other personal information by contacting you about your new Medicare card,” CMS says.

Here are some clues that someone calling is trying to con you:
— You are asked to confirm your Medicare or Social Security Number so they can send you a new card.
— You are told that you have to pay a fee for the new card and you need to verify your personal information.
— You may be told your health benefits will be cancelled if you don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information.

CMS says if someone calls you and asks for your Medicare number or other personal information, hang up and call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Scam targets Medicare users to divulge Social Security numbers

What do you think of the decision to replace the old Medicare card?

Retirement rants and raves
I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind.

Sonja Dieterich of Sacramento, Calif., wanted to comment on a recent newsletter about relocating after retirement.

Read more: With threat of hurricanes, is Florida still a retirement haven?

In the column, I talked about three key questions to ask if you plan to move, in particular to Florida.

But there’s something people should consider, Dieterich said.

“I work at a major academic hospital. The one thing I recommend for retirees to look at when relocating is the quality of medical services available nearby, and the infrastructure to reach those services when you will not be able to drive anymore,” she said. “We see a lot of elderly people who have moved to their dream mountain hideaway when they were still a vigorous 65, but find out the hard way 10 years later when a major health issue crops up, often impacting driving abilities, that getting down the mountain in January to see your specialist is very, very tough. Plus, this is exactly a stage in your life when you are least capable to move closer to medical care while having to rebuild your social network all over again.”

Her parting advice: “Yes, by all means, consider your quiet mountain getaway (Or beach house). But please have a plan B in place.”

Your sharing might help others. So send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”

Newsletter comments policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)

Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.

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