Report: Gov't lax in fixing Medicare ID theft problem

Medicare ID theft could prevent access to care

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Nearly 300,000 Medicare beneficiaries are victims of identity theft, and a recent report indicates there's not much the government is doing to fix the problem.

As a senior citizen, James McClary depends on Medicare, and he's hoping he doesn't become the next victim.

"It's very important to me," he said. "I'm 82 years old. It's very important."

His beneficiary number is directly connected to his Social Security number, which is why he's concerned by the recent report obtained by USA Today that reveals the government will not issue new IDs to more than a quarter-million people who are potential victims of identity theft.

"Right now, I can't think of what they should do, but they should do something about it, I say that," McClary said.

It's possible the ID theft could prevent access to care, and Channel 4 crime and safety analyst Ken Jefferson believes this highlights the importance of protecting personal information, including all those cards people might in their wallets.

"Carry your driver's license, carry whatever, necessary credit cards you need to carry, as well as in this case, your Medicare card -- you carry it, you keep it on your person at all times," Jefferson said.

Jefferson points out thieves could do a great deal of damage, especially with all the information that's attached to Medicare beneficiary numbers.

"When you lose a credit card, all you have to do is just cancel it, and that number is null and void and no one can use it," Jefferson said. "But in this case, you've got a person's name and their Social Security number on there. The only thing that's missing is a DNA sample."

According to the report, the government is unable to create a new Social Security number for the victimized Medicare patients, but investigators suggest finding an alternative way to fix the problem.

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