WASHINGTON - The Better Business Bureau warned people on Medicare about a resurgence of a scam involving an offer for a "free" genetic testing kit that purportedly screens for heart conditions or cancer but is really a ruse to steal the victim’s personal information.
The scam involves the victim receiving a call from someone claiming to be from Medicare or an official-sounding organization, such as "the Cardiac Test Center," the BBB said.
The caller claims to be providing free genetic testing kits that screen for a genetic predisposition to heart disease, cancer or other common conditions, the organization said. The caller also insists that the test will be "totally covered" by Medicare, the BBB added.
"All you need to do is agree to receive a kit in the mail, swab your cheek, and return the vial," the organization reported. "This sounds like a useful (and free) test, so you agree. Of course, there’s a catch!"
The BBB said the caller will ask for the victim’s Medicare ID number and other personal information before the company can mail the kit.
"Targets of this scam report being asked extensive questions about their health, such as their family medical history and previous diagnoses," the BBB said in a warning shared July 11. "One victim reported: ‘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 off my Medicare card, and I hung up.’"
FILE - A woman takes a phone call in her home in this file image dated March 10, 2021. (Photo by Roland Weihrauch/picture alliance via Getty Images)
The BBB said there are several variations of the scam. Previous versions have included scammers setting up tables at health fairs, going door-to-door in neighborhoods, and even providing gift cards in exchange for the victim’s participation.
While genetic testing is a legitimate service, and some victims actually receive a kit, the BBB said scammers are trying to commit fraud by billing Medicare for the unnecessary tests.
"For the victims, these cons can lead to medical identity theft and, in some instances, a bill for thousands of dollars. Consumers should always consult with their primary care doctor before agreeing to tests," the BBB warned.
Individuals can protect themselves by becoming aware of signs signaling Medicare fraud. If a product is truly free, the recipient will not have to provide a Medicare number, the BBB said.
People should also never share their Medicare number with anyone other than their doctor’s office. Medicare will never call a patient to confirm their personal information, their Medicare number or to ask questions about their personal health, the organizations said.
Anyone who thinks they have become a victim of Medicare fraud is asked to report it by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Medicare.gov shares helpful information to know before calling to report fraud, including any payment amount approved or paid by Medicare and the date of the claim.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.