COLUMBIA, S.C. – A possible new twist on an old type of Medicare scam is popping up around the state and the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) is warning consumers to be on the look-out for representatives or companies offering “free” DNA testing services through their Medicare coverage. While SCDCA has not received any complaints direct from consumers, event coordinators from community centers and churches have reported holding recent events like the one described below.
No two schemes are identical, but here’s what a situation might look like: A representative of a company shows up at a local health fair, senior housing facility, community center, church or home health agency offering free health screenings, including genetic testing. They falsely promise that Medicare will pay for the testing, all you need to do is provide a cheek swab, your ID and Medicare information. They may even pay YOU to get the testing done. If you do as they ask, they now have your information and can use the information provided for either identity theft or fraudulent billing purposes, racking up thousands of dollars of services not covered by Medicare.
Don’t be a victim of Medicare fraud. Protect yourself and your benefits:
• Random genetic testing and cancer screenings aren’t covered by Medicare. To be covered, they must be 1) ordered by your personal physician and 2) deemed medically necessary and covered by your plan. If you are interested in a test or screening, speak with your personal doctor.
• Never give out your private information. That includes Social Security, Medicare or health plan numbers or banking information to someone you don’t know. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in other fraud schemes.
• Do not consent to any lab tests. Whether at a senior center, health fair, or in your home, always be suspicious of anyone claiming that genetic tests and cancer screenings can be performed at no cost to you.
• Monitor your Medicare Summary Notice. Watch 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.
Even if these representatives aren’t linking their testing to Medicare coverage, be wary of these kinds of offerings. To report suspected Medicare fraud, call (877) 772-3379. Consumers who attended events like the one described above are encouraged to contact the Identity Theft Unit at (844) TELL DCA (835-5322) to receive more information on defending against identity theft and scams. For a copy of our recently updated ID Theft Prevention Guide, click here or call the department directly to request a free copy.
The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs aims to protect consumers from inequities in the marketplace through advocacy, complaint mediation, enforcement and education. To file a complaint or get information on consumer issues, visit www.consumer.sc.gov or call toll-free, 1 (800) 922-1594.