State agency warns consumers of possible Medicare DNA scam



A possible new twist on an old type of Medicare scam is popping up around the state and one state agency is warning consumers to be on the lookout for representatives or companies offering "free" DNA testing services through their Medicare coverage.

The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs distributed a news release earlier this week that noted event coordinators from community centers and churches in the state have reported holding recent events that turned out to be schemes.

No two schemes are identical, the state consumer protection agency said, but someone - posing as a company representative - may show up at a local health fair, senior housing facility, community center, church or home health agency offering free health screenings, including genetic testing. The individuals falsely promise that Medicare will pay for the testing, and all a person needs to do is provide a cheek swab, their ID and Medicare information. The impersonator may even offer to pay consumers to get the testing done, the agency said in the release.

The state department says if consumers give the person their information, then the scammer can use that information for either identity theft or fraudulent billing purposes, racking up thousands of dollars of services not covered by Medicare.

The Department of Consumer Affairs noted the following for consumers to remember:

- Random genetic testing and cancer screenings aren't covered by Medicare. To be covered, they must be ordered by a person's personal physician.

- Never give out your personal information - including Social Security, Medicare or health plan numbers or banking information - to someone you don't know.

- Don't consent to any lab tests. Always be suspicious of anyone claiming that genetic tests and cancer screening can be performed at no cost to you.

- Monitor your Medicare Summary Notice. Inspect to see if there are any services you didn't have or didn't want but were billed for.

The agency added, even if these representatives don't link their testing to Medicare coverage, consumers should be wary of these types of offerings. To report suspected Medicare fraud, the state Department of Consumer Affairs tells individuals to call (877) 772-3379.