Given the popularity of genealogy websites that promise to trace your ancestry with a DNA testing swab, it can be tempting to gain insight into your medical condition – including diseases you didn’t know you had – with a DNA swab. However, consumers should use extreme caution when asked to undergo genetic DNA screening.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) offices from across the United States have received reports of consumers being asked to take part in free DNA testing. Consumers are told the test can detect cancer and other diseases. Consumers are asked to provide Medicare and Medicaid information so the company doing the testing can file insurance claims.
“By giving strangers your insurance information, you’re opening yourself up to possibly having your identity stolen,” said Stephanie Garland, BBB Springfield regional director. “We encourage consumers to be as protective of their insurance information as they are with their Social Security number and other sensitive personal information.”
Several states, including Kentucky, Nebraska and South Carolina, have issued warnings about the screenings, which involve collecting DNA cells swabbed from inside a person’s cheek.
Officials in Nebraska and South Carolina report businesses are going to senior centers, residential communities and assisted living facilities and offering the tests.
A non-profit organization from St. Louis alerted BBB after a representative from a testing company offered to give a presentation to a group of senior citizens. The non-profit told BBB a man wanted to collect DNA samples after delivering a short presentation. The non-profit told the man that he could give a presentation but not take samples. The man did not show up to the scheduled presentation.
BBB spoke to the man who offered to give the presentation. He said he was an independent contractor for a Tampa, Florida-based business. He said the business collects DNA swabs from its clients and does genetic screening on the samples. The man said there is no cost to the consumer. He said the company collects the consumer’s Medicare or Medicaid information and files insurance claims on the client’s behalf. The man said he did not have a medical degree.
A BBB investigator was able to watch a training webinar presented by the man’s company. The presenter told viewers they could not entice anyone to take the test by giving them either money or a gift to participate. He said the company could not use the word “free” when promoting the screenings but rather refer to it as a “no cost” screening since insurance will be billed for the tests. Webinar attendees were told to “dress to impress” and to always “wear a badge.”
BBB was able to obtain a copy of the requisition forms the business submits with the DNA samples. While consumers are not required to share their Social Security number, the business does ask the consumer for their insurance information, and consumers are required to let the business take photos of their photo ID as well as their insurance card(s).
BBB could not find the business registered with secretary of state’s offices in Illinois, Missouri or Florida.
BBB offers the following tips on avoiding healthcare scams:
Research any business and its owners carefully. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org or by calling 417-380-5074.
Don’t only trust a name or phone number. Con artists often use official-sounding names or mask their area codes to make you trust them. Don’t fall for it, do more research.
Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether it’s over the phone, by email, or on social media. This includes banking and credit card information, your birthdate, Social Security or Social Insurance number, and your health insurance number.
Just because someone is dressed like a healthcare professional, it doesn’t mean they are qualified to practice medicine. Make sure to verify their credentials before you allow them to assist you.
Go to BBB’s ScamTracker to learn about scams trending in your area or to report a scam.