Linda Morris looks over her Medicare statements, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in Parker City, Ind. Federal law enforcement officials say they’ve taken down a nearly-$2 billion Medicare fraud scheme that exploited curiosity about genetic medicine by having seniors get their cheeks swabbed for unneeded DNA tests. A Medicare enrollee, Morris said she was roped in at a conference on aging well. The retired high school math and journalism teacher got her cheek swabbed by one of the many health vendors at the event. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Feds crack Medicare gene test fraud that peddled cheek swabs

September 27, 2019 - 11:01 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal law enforcement officials say they've taken down a $2-billion Medicare fraud scheme that enticed seniors to get their cheeks swabbed for unneeded DNA tests.

"Operation Double Helix" targeted telemarketing companies, doctors and labs, in a joint effort by the FBI, U.S. attorneys' offices, and the Health and Human Services inspector general.

More than 30 people were charged Friday around the country.

The alleged scam flourished at a time when many people are getting DNA tests to trace back their family heritage. Fraudsters preyed on people's fears of harboring genetic markers for diseases such as cancer.

Officials say Medicare enrollees can protect themselves from fraud by refusing genetic tests unless ordered by their doctor. Genetic testing is not routinely used to screen for cancer.

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