In recent years DNA testing has become inexpensive enough for companies like Ancestry DNA or 23andMe to market home kits allowing consumers to discover their origin or screen for potential health conditions. But the recent surge in cheap and widely available genetic testing has also opened the door for scammers targeting seniors who may pay out pocket and never receive results or have their health insurance company billed for unnecessary testing.
Seniors should be wary of scammers who may set up booths at local health fairs or retirement communities. Some even go door-to-door claiming to work for insurance companies or Medicare, offering to take a DNA sample, for a price. Scammers may try to entice seniors using gift cards or other incentives to provide a DNA sample by swapping the inside of the cheek, claiming to be able to test for cancers or dangerous drug interactions. Genetic testing can cost Medicare up to $9,000 depending on the type of test, sometimes as high as $25,000. And not only are the results rarely delivered to patients (if sent in at all), they could be on the hook for the cost if insurance refuses the claim.
According to the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, seniors should not accept any genetic testing kit unless it was ordered by their trusted physician. Older adults are advised to refuse delivery and keep a record of the sender’s name and date the kit was returned. Never give out a Medicare number to anyone who offers “free” genetic testing; only provide health insurance information to the physician’s office.
Seniors may also be approached through Facebook ads or on Craigslist to provide their Medicare or Social Security numbers in exchange for a DNA test at no charge. Not only does this fraud open seniors up to unexpected testing charges if the scammer is teamed up with an unscrupulous doctor, but they also risk the misuse of personal information.
Scammers prey on older adults by generating fear they may have a serious genetic condition that could put themselves or their family members at an increased risk for health problems. As this type of fraudulent medical testing ramps up, it’s important that older adults are reminded never to agree to any unsolicited medical testing or to give out medical insurance or other personal or medical information to anyone except their trusted doctor’s office.
Learn more about genetic testing fraud and how to protect yourself or a loved-one by following this link to Senior Medicare Patrol.