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Free genetic test to screen your health? Watch out, could be a Medicare scam

Experts say an offer to let you take a no-cost swab test to check for a predisposition for cancer or heart trouble could really be about Medicare fraud and stealing your identity.
Beware of scammers hoping to commit Medicare fraud.
Beware of scammers hoping to commit Medicare fraud. [ DREAMSTIME | Tribune News Service ]
Published Jun. 16
Updated Jun. 18

The woman on the phone sounded so official, the consumer from Ohio would later say.

She was Karen from a Medicare wellness center, she said, calling about a free genetic test kit to screen for conditions such as cancer or heart disease. She asked professional-sounding questions about the man’s blood pressure, prescriptions and how his name appeared on his Medicare card.

But when she requested his Medicare number, the fellow smelled trouble. He hung up.

“I am concerned about the information I provided,” he later reported to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker.

Experts say he might have good reason.

Scamsters have been using a genetic test gambit that’s supposed to determine if you have a predisposition for certain health conditions to try get personal information, according to the Better Business Bureau. But in some cases, the real goal is to commit fraud by billing Medicare for unnecessary tests — and, to glean personal health data that can aid in identity theft.

One person recently reported a friend received an envelope containing a “Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Genetic Requisition Form,” oral swab kit and return envelope. The form was already filled out with the friend’s name, birthdate, phone number and insurance information. It also had her doctor’s name and signature — though the doctor later said she had not requested the test nor signed the form.

Advice from the experts: Always check with your doctor’s office first, and never share your Medicare number with anyone other than your health care provider. If you suspect fraud, report it to Medicare.gov. or 1-800-633-4277 (MEDICAR).

An alert consumer reported a Medicare “advocate” kept calling their home to offer free genetic testing and telling them to press a number on their phone if they were interested.

“I am not about to press any number,” the consumer reported. “We just hang up.”