A Medicare scam is back. According to the Better Business Bureau, con artists are claiming to offer free genetic testing kits that allegedly screen for heart conditions or cancer. It’s really a ruse to steal your Medicare information for fraudulent billing and/or identity theft.

How the scam works

You get a call from someone claiming to be from Medicare or an official-sounding organization (one victim reported receiving a call from the “Cardiac Test Center”). The caller claims to be providing free genetic testing kits. All you need to do is agree to receive a kit in the mail, swab your cheek and return the vial. The test will tell you if you have a genetic predisposition to heart disease, cancer or another common condition. The caller insists that the test will be totally covered by Medicare.

This sounds like a useful (and free) test, so you agree. Of course, there’s a catch: Before the company can mail your kit, it needs your Medicare ID number and a lot of personal information. Targets of this scam report being asked extensive questions about their health, such as their family medical history and previous diagnoses.

As always, there are several variations of this con. Previous versions involved scammers going door-to-door or setting up tables at health fairs. Con artists may even provide gift cards or other giveaways in exchange for your participation.

While genetic testing is a legitimate service – some victims do actually receive a genetic testing kit – the scammers are trying to commit fraud by billing Medicare for the unnecessary tests. For the victims, these cons can lead to medical identity theft and, in some instances, a bill for thousands of dollars. Consumers should always consult with their primary care doctor before agreeing to tests.

Protecting yourself

• Be wary of any lab tests at senior centers, health fairs or in your home.

• Be suspicious of anyone claiming that genetic tests and cancer screenings are free or covered by Medicare. If a product or test is truly free, you will not have to provide your Medicare number.

• Don’t share your Medicare number. If anyone other than your physician’s office requests your Medicare information, do not provide it. Also, protect your Medicare card by keeping it in a safe place (not your wallet).

• Do not trust a name or phone number. Con artists often use official-sounding names or appear to be calling from a government agency or related area code. Medicare will never call you to confirm your personal information, your Medicare number or ask questions about your personal health.

If you think you are a victim of Medicare fraud, be sure to report it. Visit medicare.gov to get started.

For more information on the Medicare scam, visit tinyurl.com/2e24t6jm. To report a scam to the Scam Tracker, visit BBB.org/ScamTracker.