Beware of scammers targeting Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries offering genetic testing. These scammers obtain Medicare or Medicaid numbers from victims for fraudulent purposes.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued an alert about scammers offering cheek swabs for genetic testing to obtain Medicare information and sometimes Medicaid information. This information is taken for identity theft and fraudulent billing purposes.
The scammers are targeting Medicare beneficiaries through telemarketing calls, but also online and in-person through door-to-door visits, booths and public events or health fairs. They may dress in scrubs or white coats to look like healthcare professionals or researchers. The scammers typically ask if the person has Medicare or Medicaid coverage. They may also use a game, like bingo, with prizes or food to get people to participate.
Scammers may have a questionnaire asking about relatives with cancer or other diseases. They indicate that a genetic test can determine if the person already has a disease or if they are at risk of getting a disease. In some cases, the scammers indicate the test will provide information about how their body will react to medications. If someone agrees to be tested, the scammer obtains the person’s Medicare or Medicaid numbers and uses a swab to take a saliva sample from inside the person’s mouth.
Most of the time the individual never gets results from the “testing,” but there have been reports of some individuals actually getting results back, only to find out that their Medicare or Medicaid policy was billed an excessive amount of money for the test. If you receive cancer genetic testing results back after providing a cheek swab, and you and/or your healthcare provider have questions regarding the results, you can schedule an appointment with Melanie Baxter, ScM, CGC, Cancer Genetic Counselor at Saint Francis Medical Center’s Cancer Institute. She can be reached at 573-331-5690.
If you are approached by a genetic testing marketer asking you to provide your Medicare or Medicaid information and a saliva sample using a cheek swab, please report it to the appropriate group:
- MO HealthNet participants should report it to the Missouri Medicaid Audit & Compliance (MMAC) by email at MMAC.ReportFraud@dss.mo.gov or by phone to the MMAC Fraud Hotline at 573-751-3285.
- Medicare participants should contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General Hotline by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS or online at https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/report-fraud/.
How to Protect Yourself
- Be suspicious of anyone who offers you “free” genetic testing and then requests your Medicare or Medicaid number. Your personal information could be compromised and used in other fraud schemes.
- Your healthcare provider or genetic counselor that you know and trust should approve any requests for genetic testing. If you are interested in cancer genetic testing, please discuss testing options with your healthcare provider or a genetic counselor.
- Individuals should be cautious of unsolicited requests for their Medicare and Medicaid numbers. If anyone other than your physician’s office requests your Medicare or Medicaid information, do not provide it.