SMP Warning: “Free” Genetic Testing or Cancer Screenings Offers Are a Scam

SMP Warning: “Free” Genetic Testing or Cancer Screenings Offers Are a Scam

If you are approached by someone who offers a “free” genetic testing or cancer screening, turn it down. This is not a free test and needs to be performed by your primary physician if medically necessary. These scams are currently one of the top three reported to our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP).

One way these scammers reach lots of people is by approaching senior centers or the coordinators of senior residence homes. Sometimes scammers offer an “ice cream social” to increase the allure and other times they just say they want to come offer a free presentation to residents about “free” genetic testing and/or cancer screenings. In the presentation, they’ll ask residents for their Medicare numbers to bill insurance thousands of dollars for these “free services.” Again, these services are NOT free and are not offered across-the-board to all beneficiaries. They are only covered if prescribed by your primary physician and it is deemed medically necessary.

One of our SMP liaison volunteers, Claire Pisching, recently spotted a genetic testing scam while on a trip to her local grocery store. A woman had set up a table right in front of the store with a sign for “free genetic testing”. Knowing of these scams, Claire went up to ask the woman some hard questions and asked for her business card. Not satisfied with the answers, and with no business cards available, Claire confirmed that this was indeed a scam. Claire warned another man who looked interested not to sign up.

After going in the store to do her shopping, Claire came out to find this man giving the woman his Medicare card. She also saw the woman take a picture of it with her phone. Claire then gave the man her card and said, “Call me when you get your bill and we’ll work this out.” Claire then called the store manager to tell him about this woman who was scamming their customers right outside their door. Claire also said that as an SMP volunteer, she was available to help any of the other customers that may have been scammed. After explaining the scenario, the manager had this woman leave and told her never to come back.

That is one of MANY scam scenarios happening out there. One way to protect yourself, your loved ones, clients and/or residents is to watch for people offering free presentations on free genetic testing or cancer screenings. Also, be on the look out for cold calls about genetic testing kits. The caller usually offers to send a free genetic testing kit and only asks you to return the completed kit “with your insurance information”. This is so they can bill Medicare for thousands of dollars of expensive, medically UNnecessary genetic testing. If you come across any such scams, report them to our California SMP at 1-855-613-7080. 

Remember:

  • Don’t give your DNA away to a stranger! Beware of folks who are visiting senior centers and senior apartments to advertise free genetic testing and cancer screenings. Check with your doctor first!
  • Don’t become a victim of medical theft. Watch out for folks who promise genetic testing and cancer screenings covered 100% by Medicare. Medicare only covers tests and procedures that are medically necessary and at 80% of the approved amount. If Medicare does not pay, you may be on the hook for thousands of dollars worth of tests.
  • Look for charges on your Medicare Summary Notice statements for unnecessary tests or screenings that you did not want or were not ordered by your doctor.
And again, if you do come across such a scam, please report it to our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-855-613-7080.
Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.