A 92-year-old woman in Boone, N.C. got two offers like that in the mail.
One was for a family hereditary cancer screening test and another was an adverse drug reaction test. The kit included step-by-step instructions of how to perform the saliva test. She didn't take the test, but her family was concerned and contacted the North Carolina Attorney General's office.
"If somebody contacts you out of the blue, to try to get any kind of test. A DNA test, anything, and then you didn't ask them for that, your doctor didn't authorize that, be very suspicious," said Josh Stein, the North Carolina Attorney General.
Stein said the end game for the testing companies is typically money.
"So you send in the swab, with your DNA, then they call you and harass you and say pay for it, or if you won't pay for it, give us your Medicare number, we will bill on your behalf," Stein said.
In some cases, Stein said it could lead to more than just getting paid.
"If you give over your insurance or Medicare information, that could be used for identity theft or identity fraud," he said. "So we really want people to be very suspicious if they call you if they email you if they knock on your door."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General issued a fraud alert about the genetic testing scam.
That office said the fraud occurs when Medicare is billed for a test or screening that was not medically necessary and/or was not ordered by a Medicare beneficiary's treating physician. The office added scammers are offering Medicare beneficiaries "free" screenings or cheek swabs for genetic testing to obtain their Medicare information for identity theft or fraudulent billing purposes. Right now investigators say fraudsters are targeting beneficiaries through telemarketing calls, booths at public events, health fairs, and door-to-door visits.
The Troubleshooter Takeaways:
- If a genetic testing kit is mailed to you, don't accept it unless it was ordered by your physician. Refuse the delivery or return it to the sender. Keep a record of the sender's name and the date you returned the items.
- Be suspicious of anyone who offers you "free" genetic testing and then requests your Medicare number. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in other fraud schemes.
- A physician that you know and trust should assess your condition and approve any requests for genetic testing.
- Medicare beneficiaries should be cautious of unsolicited requests for their Medicare numbers. If anyone other than your physician's office requests your Medicare information, do not provide it.
- If you suspect Medicare fraud, contact the HHS OIG Hotline.