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BBB on Seniors Don’t fall for genetic testing scams

May 17, 2019

I’ve mentioned before how crafty scammers can get when it comes to getting money that doesn’t belong to them, and this current con that we’ve been hearing more and more about lately is no different.

With all the hype that’s come along with the DNA testing kits this past holiday season, it’s no wonder that we’re now seeing a rise in fraud surrounding just that: “free” genetic testing.

These individuals offering genetic testing or cancer screenings to Medicare beneficiaries through health fairs, social events at community or senior centers, or other educational events could be using these tests to commit Medicare fraud and abuse. This same scam can also be carried out through kits delivered straight to your home through the mail. These fraudsters will usually take cheek swabs and collect Medicare numbers and personal information for billing purposes and may even give gift cards or other giveaways in exchange for your participation.

When an individual offers to provide an educational session to a group of seniors, takes their Medicare numbers, and then does genetic and/or cancer screening by using a cheek swab, this does not meet Medicare’s criteria for medical necessity. They are offering a service to the general public without determining actual need, and they are doing it outside the guidance of those Medicare beneficiaries’ own physicians.

Here are some things to know:

• Medicare only pays for DNA or genetic testing in rare circumstances where it is medically necessary for treatment or diagnosis of a medical condition.

• These sorts of test must be ordered by the Medicare beneficiary’s own physician.

• People have been stuck with big bills when their insurance plan reviewed the claim and decided the test was not medically necessary.

• Health fairs are an opportunity for fraudulent providers to file false claims with your information.

• If a product or test is truly “free,” you will not have to provide your Medicare number.

• Never give your Medicare number or date of birth to anyone for test not ordered by your own physician.

• It is illegal to accept money, gift cards, groceries, or other items in exchange for your Medicare number.

If you are contacted by phone to participate in any such screening or testing, hang up! Do not answer any personal questions or give out any personal information, including your Medicare number. Also, remember to check your Medicare Summary Notice for suspicious claims for procedures such as genetic testing that was not ordered directly by your physician. Remember that Medicare will never call you to confirm your personal information, your Medicare number, or ask questions about your personal health.

You should contact the Texas Senior Medicare Patrol at 888-341-6187 to report any related activities or suspicious requests for your Medicare number.

Melissa Ramsey is the BBB Education Foundation columnist. For more information, call 713-341-6141.

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