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Medicare Scam Hits Close to Home

Posted: May 3, 2019

A scam that targets retirees and Medicare patients has apparently reached Solano County, warns Karen Vikstrom, genetic counselor with NorthBay Cancer Center.

The scam involves unsolicited phone calls to retirees, encouraging them to have their DNA tested for cancer risks, free of charge. In return, retirees are asked to provide their Medicare health insurance information and are sent a DNA test kit. “It’s a ruse to not only steal sensitive medical information, but DNA,” Vikstrom noted, “which could be used to be reimbursed for services that either were not provided or medically necessary.”

One of Vikstrom’s patients, a Fairfield resident, received one of those phone calls and brought it to Vikstrom’s attention when the patient arrived for a previously scheduled genetic counseling appointment.

“My patient said the caller wouldn’t say who the ordering clinician was, or why the test was being done. I’m a member of a national genetics counseling forum and our members had been discussing this scam recently, so I was aware of it but thought it was a bigger problem back East.”

Officials in Kentucky and Nebraska began issuing warnings in April. In Nebraska, state officials received multiple reports of groups going to senior centers, residential communities and assisted living facilities offering to swab people’s cheeks for genetic material for DNA cancer checks, according to the Nebraska Department of Insurance.

Nebraska officials fear people may be under the impression that Medicare will cover the cost of testing, according to an AARP Fraud Watch Network report. Medicare does not currently cover the cost of genetic testing in individuals who do not have a personal history of cancer. Concerns can be reported to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at (800) 633-4227.

“The bottom line is that no one should give out sensitive information, or be enticed into providing saliva samples. If you have concerns about your family history for cancer, meet with your primary care physician or contact the NorthBay Cancer Center to see if testing is indicated,” said Vikstrom.