‘She was smooth, smooth, smooth’: Watch out for genetic testing scams

CHARLOTTE — Another old scam seems to be making the rounds again. Federal health officials have posted fraud alerts about genetic testing scams, which involves someone trying to trick seniors out of their personal information and the government out of taxpayer money.

Officials say criminals offer seniors free screenings or cheek swabs, and then bill Medicare for the tests.

Kathy Stokes, a fraud expert with AARP, says these scammers victimize people in all sorts of ways such as stealing their personal information and misleading the government. In addition, if the government does not cover the cost of the test, the victim may be responsible for it, which could cost thousands.

According to Kaiser Health News, the scammers also troll low-income housing complexes, senior centers, health fairs and antique shops. Sometimes they offer ice cream, pizza or $100 gift cards as rewards.

Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke came across several criminal cases involving genetic testing schemes, including one involving multiple states in which agents charged 35 people for allegedly billing Medicare more than $2.1 billion. At least two of the defendants were from South Carolina.

Al Rodgers told Stoogenke he got a call from a scammer and wished he hadn’t. He said the caller was “smooth, smooth, smooth” and said something about genetic testing for cancer. They wanted his wife’s Medicare information.

“That’s when I got kind of hesitant,” he said. “I just want to let people know that these people are out there.”

Advice from Action 9:

- If you want or need a screening, get it through your doctor, not someone soliciting you.

- Be suspicious of any call or mailing that guarantees Medicare will pay the tab.

- Remember, Medicare will only pay for DNA tests that are “medically necessary” and requested by your doctor.

If you suspect Medicare fraud, report it by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

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