COLUMBUS – Ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this Saturday, June 15, the Ohio Department of Insurance and the Ohio Department of Aging are warning Ohioans of a new scam targeting seniors. Ohio consumers should be cautious of genetic testing firms visiting senior communities or making unsolicited phone calls and mailings related to DNA screenings.
“Scam artists are always looking for new ways to steal money or personal information,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “We want people to be careful and to know the signs of a possible scam.”
In the scheme, which has been reported in Ohio and other states, firms reportedly collect consumers’ personal information under the pretense of DNA testing to screen them for cancer, Alzheimer’s, or other life-threatening diseases. Victims are told that Medicare will cover the cost of their testing. However, Medicare provides limited coverage for DNA testing (which is why consumers should consult their health care providers). As part of the scam, consumers often are asked for their Medicare card number and Social Security number.
“We want Ohioans to be aware and cautious as they consider DNA screening services,” said Ohio Department of Insurance Director Jillian Froment. “Consumers should never share their personal information, including Social Security number or Medicare card number, with anyone who reaches out unexpectedly. If you think you may be a victim of fraud or if you suspect potentially fraudulent activity, please contact us.”
“Scammers and shady businesses target older adults to steal money, get personal information, or in this case, improperly access individuals’ insurance benefits,” added Ohio Department of Aging Director Ursel McElroy. “As older adults get wiser to common scams, scammers are doing more to try to win their trust. Guard your Medicare or other insurance card like you would a credit card. To a scammer, it is just as valuable.”
To protect yourself, be alert if anyone conducting DNA cheek swabs requests that you agree to be billed for services in the event Medicare does not pay. These types of “testers” may be committing Medicare fraud because they are attempting to bill Medicare for a procedure that has not been ordered by a health care provider.
What Should Medicare Recipients Know About Genetic Testing?
In order for the testing to be covered by Medicare, it must be medically necessary.
Consumers should always confirm that their test has been ordered by their doctor, that it’s covered by their plan, and that it’s medically necessary.
If you are interested in DNA screening, talk to your doctor and determine if it is right for you.
How Can I Protect Myself from This Type of Scam?
If you or a loved one is approached by someone claiming to offer genetic testing, do not give your personal information (like your Medicare or Social Security information) to them.
Theft of Medicare card numbers may be used to commit identity theft or fraud.
Instead of receiving a DNA screening unsolicited from a firm not affiliated with your health care provider, talk to your doctor first and determine if the test is necessary.
Some consumers have reported receiving DNA testing kits in the mail without requesting them. Consumers should not use these kits but should instead talk to their doctor first.
If you suspect wrongdoing or if you believe you have been victimized, call the Ohio Department of Insurance’s Fraud and Enforcement Hotline at 800-686-1527 or the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program at 800-686-1578.
Older Ohioans and their loved ones can learn more about scams and other forms of elder abuse and exploitation, along with ways to prevent and report them, on the Ohio Department of Aging’s website (www.aging.ohio.gov/elderabuse).