Veterans should watch out for genetic test scammers, warns VA

Veterans may become targets for fraudsters trying to steal their benefits information and identity through unwanted genetic testing kits, Department of Veterans Affairs warned this week.

The warning that came through VA Alert Office of the Inspector General, is said to be looking for offers for in-house genetic testing kits. It asked veterans to report potential scams involving genetic screening tests that doctors did not directly order.

“We understand that fraudsters sometimes send out these tools to lure veterans and others into an effort to steal medical information for identity theft and fraudulent billing,” Virginia Press Secretary Terence Hayes said in an emailed statement to Military.com. “VA does not send out these tests.”

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Medical test kits can be used to identify health conditions that may appear in DNA and can help medical professionals better diagnose or treat patients.

The Pentagon earlier warned troops against using genetic testing kits, citing security concerns.

“these [direct-to-consumer] The 2019 Department of Defense memo said, according to Yahoo News, that genetic testing is highly unregulated and can reveal personal and genetic information, potentially creating unintended security consequences and increasing risks to the joint force and mission.

While the VA alert did not specifically mention national security risks, it did note that fraudsters could send these “free” test kits to veterans to steal their personal information.

For example, veterans can receive one of the test kits in exchange for their benefits number or other personal information, which will later be used fraudulently for “billing purposes,” according to To a Department of Health and Human Services press release regarding genetic equipment fraud in general.

Fraudsters can also take this information for any number of fraud-related crimes such as identity theft.

Neither the VA warning nor the Department of Defense warning specifically mentions any DNA equipment companies. However, two of the most popular commercial genetic test suites are from AncestryDNA and 23andMe. It is unclear how many veterans have been affected by this type of fraud.

The Department of Veterans Affairs specifically cautioned against looking for the many red flags that could indicate a scam, the bottom line being that “genetic testing should result from a finding of need by their physicians,” according to the alert.

Other red flags include:

  • Offers “free” genetic testing suites from lawyers claiming to be working with the Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Genetic test kits received by mail and not ordered by a VA medical doctor
  • Requests for personal or health information or benefits
  • ‘Explanation of benefit letters indicating that an invoice has been sent to the VA for testing’ not received
  • Unsolicited offers of incentives to participate in genetic screening

The Department of Veterans Affairs has also warned physicians themselves to be wary of potential solicitation via faxes or calls requiring a genetic screening certificate, legal threats or coercion to sign fraudulent lab orders, and fake clinical fraudsters claiming to be “sending on behalf of patients.”

To file a complaint about this type of suspected fraud — or fraud in general — Hayes urged veterans to call the OIG hotline at www.va.gov/oig/hotline Or call 808-488-8244.

Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at drew.lawrence@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @pdf_lawrence.

Related: Advocates who worry scammers will soon target vets for getting new benefits

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