The Better Business Bureau is warning seniors to be on the lookout for scam artists posing as DNA testers in an attempt to obtain Medicare numbers and other personal information. Also referred to as buccal swab tests, the process involves collecting DNA cells from inside an individual’s check to screen for cancer and for medication side effects. An uptick of reports began appearing following a March announcement that Medicare would cover genetic tests for advanced cancer. The BBB is advising consumers to use caution, as some individuals offering to perform these tests are simply attempting to obtain your personal information.

How the scam works:

Victims have reported scammers either knocked on their door or had a booth at a public event, such as at a grocery store or health and wellness fair. Some victims also report being contacted via email and social media. The scammer promises that Medicare will pay for the test, and you simply need to provide a cheek swab, your identification and Medicare information to receive your test results. They may even ask for your physician’s name, suggesting that they will send your doctor the results.

Once the scammer has your personal information including Medicare number, they can bill Medicare for medically unnecessary tests or even services that you never receive. They may also have personal genetic information regarding your health. They often also sell your information to other parties who may do the same.

A few swabs inside your cheek might seem harmless. However, it could prove to be very harmful if your information gets in the wrong hands.

The BBB offers the following tips on avoiding this and other Medicare related scams:

Protect your information. Never provide personally identifying information including Social Security number, Medicare number or other personal information to unknown parties.

Don’t only trust a name or phone number or a lab coat. It is common for scam artists to use official-sounding names or dress in a way that makes you trust them. Always do your homework by going to bbb.org. Call the company to verify employment and make sure phone numbers, websites and email addresses match up.

Is it medically necessary and doctor-ordered? Remember eligibility for coverage is narrow. Medicare will only cover cancer screenings and genetic testing deemed medically necessary and ordered by your physician. The March 16 statement by Medicare covers this type of testing only for patients who are in the advanced stages of cancer.

Reconcile your Medicare summary notice. Medicare summary notices are sent every three months if there is activity on the account during that period. If there are any services you didn’t have or didn’t want but were billed for, please report it to Medicare.

Report it. If you think your Medicare number has been compromised, please contact Senior Medicare Patrol at 877-808-2468.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.

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