How about a free genetic test to learn more about your ancestors? Free… And finding out about the people who no longer are alive to tell their stories? And your older mom or dad figure why not… Well, identity theft is why not.
How many of you have taken the test to find out more about your ancestors? You know, the one where you offer a sample of your saliva in a tube, mail it off and they return a “report” to you that details what they know about where other people with similar genetic profiles call “home.” Most people find they have ancestral roots that go back to a lot of places, not just the family homeland they heard about as children. So, of course, scammers would be finding a way to use this test which is supposed to put us all on the map in order to defraud unsuspecting elders.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has sent out an alert. Scammers are offering people qualified for Medicare to get the same test that you or I may have paid for on-line. You may have thought your older parents were pretty insulated from this kind of scam, but here is how it works.
We’ve all been to the public health or “aging well” events where a roomful of professionals are giving away books on senior residential options, refrigerator magnets, sticky note pads and a cool bag for carrying home the haul of freebies. There are other ways like telemarketing and door to door calls, but scammers are offering the unsuspecting older individuals a free cheek swab by simply providing their Medicare identity, and the target who does not recall that they no longer need to provide their social security number don’t hesitate to offer that in exchange for an ancestral map.
Well, it becomes an access point to a different kind of map, your loved one’s financial map. And with the address and social information, scammers can begin the kind of work they do all too well. So, prepare your older loved one to be vigilant about:
- If a testing kit arrives at your loved one’s home, tell them to not do a thing if their physician did not request a test. Better yet, take note of the address of return and report it to the authorities.
- If a stranger offers a genetic test and…by the way…asks for a Social Security or Medicare number, stop. In fact, anyone other than a physician’s office or lab should not be given any of these pieces of identification.
- If anyone asks for Medicare information, and they are not a medical provider to your loved one, beware. So, this is more than saliva in a test tube. If you suspect Medicare fraud, depart the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.