With the popularity of genetic testing, so many are trying
it for the first time, enticed by the thought of finding their ancestral lines
or medical make up. But a few swabs of the cheek may cost people more than they’ll
get in return. That’s the thing with scammers and con artists, they know what
is popular and they are good at finding ways to cash in.
The US Department of Health and Human Services has issued a
fraud alert on a new genetic testing scam. Scammers are popping up across the
country, targeting Medicare beneficiaries for genetic testing via telemarketers,
booths at public events, health fairs, and even door-to-door visits. They claim
this is at no cost to them and attempt to obtain their Medicare information for
identity theft or fraudulent billing purposes.
Unfortunately, this is happening right here in our
community. Better Business Bureau has received reports of this happening in Eastern
Idaho, both at doorsteps and at senior health fairs. One report said a company
showed up to a health fair, started signing people up and swabbing their
They asked for Medicare and supplemental insurance
information, as well as personal contact information. After entering information
into a smartphone, they ask for several signatures, but without a real
opportunity to read what you were signing. Then they performed a mouth swab, about
10 times on each side, placed the swab in a test tube, then a plastic bag with
a reference number.
While these may be legitimate companies, if they are
privately owned it is very important to know how they’ll use your information
and how they will protect it. That warning doesn’t just apply in this situation
either, it can apply to any business you are working with. According to Jesse
Leimgruber, cofounder of Bloom, “In the US alone, more than 10,000 companies
are pooling and selling your personal data”. As such, the importance of
protecting, limiting and safekeeping this resource can be neglected. Many data
collectors are chiefly interested in how they can use that data to maximize
their profits – not to spend money and resources on keeping it safe.
How should people respond to this information?
• Be suspicious of anyone who requests your Medicare number. If anyone other than your physician's office requests your Medicare information, do not provide it. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in multiple fraud schemes.
• Remember again, these are private companies and it’s imperative to know how they are using and protecting your personal information.
• Use caution when agreeing to genetic testing. A physician you know, and trust should approve any requests for genetic testing.
Better business bureau has several resources to help avoid being scammed at BBB.org.