OKLAHOMA CITY – Genetic testing has become popular in recent years as researchers have found a way to determine your predisposition to certain diseases.
However, officials warn that as technology becomes more sophisticated, so do scammers.
This month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General is warning Americans about fraud schemes involving genetic or DNA testing.
Officials say the scams have been targeting Medicare beneficiaries through phone calls, booths at public events, health fairs and door-to-door visits.
Investigators say scammers will often offer free ice cream or gift cards at retirement communities, senior nutrition centers or Medicare expos for anyone who listened to a pitch about free DNA testing. The scam artist will usually downplay or even ignore the medical necessity or need for a doctor’s order.
During the event, the scammer may swab a person’s cheek to collect saliva and gather identifying information, such as their name, date of birth and Medicare number.
Medicare beneficiaries have also been sent genetic testing kits and asked to return the completed kit with their insurance information. Officials say this is so the scammer can bill Medicare thousands of dollars for expensive and medically unnecessary genetic testing.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from this scheme:
- If a genetic testing kit is mailed to you, don’t accept it unless it was ordered by your doctor. 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 free genetic testing and requests your Medicare number. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in other fraud schemes.
- Look for charges on your Medicare Summary Notice statements for unnecessary tests or screenings that you did not want or were not ordered by your doctor.
Authorities stress that Medicare will pay for genetic testing for patients with advanced cancer or a family history of certain types of cancer if the test is medically necessary and is ordered by a physician.
If you suspect that you’ve been a victim of this scam or any Medicare fraud, report it. Call the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Medicare Assistance Program at 800-763-2828.