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Medicare scam: Don’t fall for offer of ‘free’ genetic test

Knowing your family history can be important, especially if you want to find out what illnesses are present in your family tree. One way to do this is through genetic testing, where doctors take a sample of your DNA and test it for specific markers. The good thing about this is that Medicare usually covers it.

Through this, you will know if there is heart disease, cancer, or other hereditary illness you need to watch for. With this knowledge, you can take preventative steps to reduce your risks.

Scammers, ever scoping out potential targets, are now using the importance of genetic testing to steal victims’ personal data and Medicare information. Here is what you need to know about the latest con.

Here’s the backstory

If you are on Medicare or have a family member who is, you must warn them about an old scam that’s making a comeback. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), an influx of complaints has sparked the need for a public awareness campaign.

Potential victims will receive a call from an official-sounding institution or “the Cardiac Test Center,” offering free genetic tests or access to free testing kits. The scammer will explain in detail how easy it is: receive the package, swab your cheek and send it back.

The caller will tell the potential victim that Medicare will fully cover the genetic test to sweeten the deal. But like most things in life, nothing is truly free. And this scam comes at a high price.

How the Medicare scam works

If you agree to receive the test, the caller will tell you that there is only one tiny administrative detail they need to collect: your Medicare information and personal details. But the reality is there is no test, and the only thing they are after is your Medicare ID number.

“They kept asking me about my own history and family members going back to 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 info on my Medicare card, and I hung up,” one victim told the BBB.

The scam has evolved over the years, and the BBB said it started as thieves going door-to-door or setting up tables at fairs. Some variations of the scam will even offer you gift cards or vouchers for your participation.

How to protect yourself

The golden rule when it comes to any of your personal information is to keep it a secret. That means from anybody that you don’t trust. Anything official or issued by the government is of incredible value to scammers, and they will try anything to get it from you.

Here are some tips from the BBB to protect yourself from Medicare fraud:

  • 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.

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