Scammers are taking advantage of the popularity of genetic testing and of people’s natural fear of terminal illnesses. Here’s how this swindle works: through telemarketing calls, booths at public events, seminars, and even door-to-door visits, individuals (some with no medical credentials ) may offer you genetic screening for diseases like cancer with the promise that Medicare will pick up the cost so it will be “free” to you. Then they will obtain your Medicare ID number to bill the agency anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 for the test (and possibly use your Medicare ID for other illegal purposes.)
All too often they may take a cheek swab but they never test it and you never hear from them again. Medicare could be bilked into paying for a fraudulent test. But it can get worse. If Medicare denies the claim you could be on the hook for those thousands of dollars the scammers say the test costs.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General offers this advice about genetic testing:
- A physician that you know and trust should assess your condition and approve any requests for genetic testing.
- Medicare beneficiaries should be cautious of unsolicited requests for their Medicare numbers. If anyone other than your physician’s office requests your Medicare information, do not provide it.
- If a genetic testing kit is mailed to you, don’t accept it unless it was ordered by your physician. Refuse the delivery or return it to the sender. Keep a record of the sender’s name and the date you returned the items.