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A scam offering free cheek swabs for DNA or genetic testing to Medicare beneficiaries is on the rise. The scammers target senior centers, care facilities, as well as set up in public places like grocery stores and ask beneficiaries to provide their Medicare number and other identifying information before providing them with genetic testing kits. In some instances, the scammer submits a fraudulent claim to Medicare for reimbursement. Medicare covers genetic testing only when a beneficiary has an order from their doctor and when the test is medically necessary. In other instances, the scammers are using the test to obtain beneficiaries’ personal information for improper uses.

The scams appear to be a new twist on an old tactic, in which people are tricked into giving away personal information or participating in medical services they don’t need. An uptick in complaints about the so-called buccal swab tests, which involve collecting DNA from cells inside a person's cheek to screen for cancer, began after Medicare issued guidance on March 16, saying it would cover, on a national basis, a Food and Drug Administration–approved genetic test for patients with advanced cancer.

Most Medicare beneficiaries are not eligible for Medicare to pay for the DNA testing, as the requirements for eligibility are narrow. Eligible patients are those with recurrent, relapsed, drug-resistant, metastatic, or stage III or IV cancer, and they must be seeking further cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says.

We urge all Medicare beneficiaries to never provide identifying information, including their Social Security number, Medicare number, or other personal information to unknown parties. Nor should beneficiaries agree to medical testing that their doctor has not ordered.

Keep Your Information Safe

  • Do not give out your Medicare number or Social Security number. Be cautious of unsolicited requests for your Medicare or Social Security numbers. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in other fraud schemes.

  • Do not consent to any lab tests at senior centers, health fairs, or in your home. Be suspicious of anyone claiming that genetic tests and cancer screenings are at no cost to you.

  • Genetic tests and cancer screenings must be medically necessary and ordered by your doctor to be covered by Medicare. Random genetic testing and cancer screenings aren’t covered by Medicare. If you are interested in the test, speak with your doctor.

  • Monitor your Medicare Summary Notice to see if there are any services you didn’t have or didn’t want but were billed for. Medicare Summary Notices are sent every three months if you get any services or medical supplies during that 3-month period.

If you have any questions, please call 1-800-541-7735.