New Medicare con: ‘free’ genetic test kits
If you are on Medicare, watch out for a resurgence of this scam. Scammers are claiming to offer “free” genetic testing kits that allegedly screen for heart conditions or cancer. It’s really a ruse to steal your Medicare information for fraudulent billing and/or identity theft.
How the scam works
You get a call from someone claiming to be from Medicare or an official-sounding organization (one victim reported to BBB Scam Tracker that they received a call from “the Cardiac Test Center”).
The caller claims to be providing free genetic testing kits. All you need to do is agree to receive a kit in the mail, swab your cheek, and return the vial. The test will tell you if you have a genetic predisposition to heart disease, cancer, or another common condition. The caller insists that the test will be totally covered by Medicare.
This sounds like a useful (and free) test, so you agree. Of course, there’s a catch! Before the company can mail your kit, they need your Medicare ID number and a lot of personal information.
Targets of this scam report being asked extensive questions about their health, such as their family medical history and previous diagnoses.
One victim reported, “They kept asking me about my own history and family members going back to their grandparents. I finally said my father died from a stroke, and that seemed to qualify me. At that point, they verified my address — they already had it. Then they asked for information off my Medicare card, and I hung up.”
As always, there are several variations of this con. Previous versions involved scammers going door-to-door or setting up tables at health fairs. Con artists may even provide gift cards or other giveaways in exchange for your participation.
While genetic testing is a legitimate service — some victims do actually receive a genetic testing kit — the scammers are trying to commit fraud by billing Medicare for the unnecessary tests.
For the victims, these cons can lead to medical identity theft and, in some instances, a bill for thousands of dollars. Consumers should always consult with their primary care doctor before agreeing to tests.
How to protect yourself
Be wary of any lab tests at senior centers, health fairs, or in your home. Be suspicious of anyone claiming that genetic tests and cancer screenings are “free” or “covered by Medicare.” If a product or test is truly “free,” you will not have to provide your Medicare number.
Don’t share your Medicare number. If anyone other than your physician’s office requests your Medicare information, do not provide it. Also, protect your Medicare card by keeping it in a safe place (not your wallet).
Do not trust a name or phone number. Con artists often use official-sounding names or appear to be calling from a government agency or related area code. Medicare will never call you to confirm your personal information, your Medicare number, or ask questions about your personal health.
Report Medicare fraud. If you think you are a victim of Medicare fraud, be sure to report it. Go to Medicare.gov to get started. There you can read more about healthcare scams — including the Medicare back brace scam and durable medical equipment fraud — and how to protect yourself from Medicare fraud.
If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.
BBB is a nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest, and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of BBB include business profiles, dispute resolution, truth-in advertising, scam warnings, consumer and business education and charity review.