Genetic testing is booming in popularity. Industry statistics show that as of late 2018 more than 12 million Americans had submitted their DNA samples for analysis, and at the rate these firms are expanding, the value of the global DNA testing market should hit $10 billion by 2022. But unfortunately, with that much money at stake, the scam artists are on the prowl – and as usual, they are coming after seniors, this time with a genetic testing scam designed to steal personal data and rip off the Medicare system.
Genetic Testing Scam Uses Persuasive Tactics to Gather Samples and Information
Here at AgingOptions we were alerted to this danger by this timely report from Kaiser Health News in which writer Melissa Bailey describes what happened to one 86-year-old Utah woman. “[She] doesn’t usually answer solicitations from strangers, she said, but the young couple who knocked on her front door seemed so nice,” Bailey writes. “Before long, she had handed over her Medicare and Social Security numbers — and allowed them to swab her cheek to collect her DNA.” This woman is one of an untold number who have been targeted in a scam that uses DNA tests to defraud Medicare or steal personal information. “Fraudsters find their victims across the country through cold calls, door knocking, email, Facebook ads and Craigslist,” Kaiser reports. “They also troll low-income housing complexes, senior centers, health fairs and antique shops. Sometimes they offer ice cream, pizza or $100 gift cards. Some callers claim to work for Medicare, according to a fraud alert issued July 19 by the Federal Trade Commission.”
Once these persuasive scammers gain a senior’s trust, they convince him or her that an easily-collected sample, typically a swab of the inside of the cheek, can be analyzed to let them know if they might be prone to medication side effects or are likely to be diagnosed with various diseases. Using the senior’s Medicare account information and armed with a phony request from a shady physician, the thieves send the sample to a lab for analysis and send the bill to Medicare. “The patients, who might never receive any results, typically pay nothing,” the article explains. “[But] taxpayers foot the bill for tests that may be unnecessary or inappropriate. Scammers can really cash in: Medicare pays an average of $6,000 to $9,000 for these tests, and sometimes as much as $25,000, according to the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services.”
Genetic Testing Scam Complaints Have Skyrocketed Over the Past Year
The prevalence of DNA test scams appears to be growing rapidly. One year ago, the inspector general fraud hotline was receiving one or two complaints per week about the practice. Now that figure has jumped as high as 50 per week. Both the Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Trade Commission have issued fraud alerts during the past few months warning consumers to guard against genetic testing scams. The OIG alert adds a particularly ominous note of caution. “Beneficiaries who agree to genetic testing or verify personal or Medicare information may receive a cheek swab, an in-person screening or a testing kit in the mail, even if it is not ordered by a physician or medically necessary. If Medicare denies the claim, the beneficiary could be responsible for the entire cost of the test, which could be thousands of dollars.”
In their warning info, the Federal Trade Commission says that sometimes the scammers actually pretend they are working for Medicare. They ask seniors for Medicare numbers, Social Security numbers, and other personal information in exchange for free DNA testing kits. “The callers might say the test is a free way to get early diagnoses for diseases like cancer, or just that it’s a free test, so why not take it? But the truth is, Medicare does not market DNA testing kits to the general public. This is yet another government imposter scam.” The FTC says seniors and their loved ones need to remember these “scam warning signs”:
- Government agencies will rarely, if ever, call you, and they will never demand personal information or expect any form of payment over the phone.
- Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers use technology to hide their real number and display a fake one.
- Never give a stranger personal information like your Medicare, bank account, credit card or Social Security number.
To Avoid Genetic Testing Scams, Trust the Right Medical Experts
There are certainly times when genetic testing is appropriate, but should you ever need that kind of procedure, your doctor is the one to order it. You should also expect to receive the results of any such testing in a clear and easy-to-understand form. In our experience, the very best type of physician for a senior’s health care needs is a board-certified geriatrician, because these professionals understand the aging process well and will take time to get to know you and to listen to y0u. That’s a far cry from the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all type of medicine so common today! If you’ll give us a call in the coming week, we’ll be happy to provide you with names of geriatric physicians in your area.
Taking charge of your health care is important, but what about your retirement planning? The professional team at AgingOptions is ready to help. When you experience our unique and comprehensive approach to retirement planning, which we call LifePlanning, you’ll appreciate just how powerful it is, because with LifePlanning all the essential elements of retirement work together: your finances, your housing choices, your medical coverage, your legal protection, and your family communication. The absolute key to enjoying a secure and fruitful retirement is a good, solid plan, and that means an AgingOptions LifePlan.
We invite you to join Rajiv Nagaich at a free LifePlanning Seminar where he can tell you more and answer your questions, without any obligation. Invest just a few hours and your eyes will be opened to a new way of thinking about your retirement. For dates, times and locations of upcoming seminars, visit our Live Events page and reserve your place online for the event of your choice. Don’t settle for an unhealthy, inadequate retirement plan. Instead, take control of your future with an AgingOptions LifePlan. Age on!
(originally reported at www.khn.org)