If someone offered medical testing to screen you for cancer, how would you respond? I imagine such an offer would spark interest. 

And if you learned the screening easily could be conducted via a DNA kit using just a cheek swab, which you did yourself seated at the kitchen table, that might make it seem even more appealing. 

And when you learned you can expect Medicare to pay for it all …well, many of us might respond with, “How do I sign up for that?”

A Camanche woman, I’ll call her Sally, recently received just such an offer. Sally reported she received a phone call making this offer to her. All she needed to do was provide her Medicare number, which she did. About 10 days later, Sally received a DNA-collection kit in her mail delivery. But the more Sally thought about the whole thing, the more suspicious she became. So she called me. 

Sally fell victim to the latest variation of a long-running Medicare scam. This variation is a direct descendant of previous scams that featured offers of orthotic braces or other medical devices, free from Medicare, provided in exchange for your Medicare number.

Medicare and other consumer protection agencies sounded the alarm about this DNA kit scam about six months ago, reporting some face-to-face solicitations at senior centers, and telemarketing aimed at seniors. Medicare labeled it a scam, just a ploy to gain the Medicare numbers of seniors. I relayed these warnings in a column I wrote in May. 

The science of using DNA in cancer screening is still mostly experimental, and to date is useful in very limited circumstances. More to the point, Medicare does not routinely cover this practice. Telemarketing calls offering you some free service or product, paid for by Medicare, are always a scam. The crooks want your Medicare number. Don’t give it up.

‘Microsoft Security Division?’

Another tech-support scam

Calls from folks wanting to fix your computer, or shield it from hackers, are one of the most common forms of what I call tech support scams. Less common, but definitely scarier, are viruses which lock down your computer, and instruct you to contact someone for “help” to fix the problem. Dwaine Sievers, of Clinton, became a victim of the latter. His story tells us how even those with long-time experience using computers, and a better-than-average knowledge of their workings, can fall prey to a smooth talker. 

Dwaine, a recent transplant to this area, retired as an executive in the banking industry, as well as running many small businesses. This kind of work gave him daily experience for decades using computer software and hardware. He’s not a novice in this field. And yet … this week his desktop computer contracted a virus, which locked the unit down. Loud alarms sounded, nothing worked and the only thing displayed told Dwaine to call a “help” number. This wasn’t the first time Dwaine encountered virus-related problems. He knew several methods of eliminating them, which always worked in the past. 

But this time, nothing worked. Dwaine worked for two days without success to get the unit operating. Finally, in desperation, he called the help number. And found himself talking to a very professional-sounding technician who convinced Dwaine to allow remote access to his computer. According to Dwaine, “this guy had an answer for everything.” He even caused an image to display on Dwaine’s screen that identified the technician as certified with Microsoft Security Division. Dwaine believed him, for a while. Dwaine believed him until he demanded $1,299 for a lifetime security fix. That was a bridge too far, and Dwaine realized this man was a fraud. 

If you contract a virus or if your computer locks up, you need to get local help from someone you know and trust. Never call the help number you see displayed on the blocked display screen. That’s the people who sent the virus to you in the first place!

Contact Seniors Vs. Crime

 Let me know about scams, fraud or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 563-242-9211, ext. 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.

Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County sheriff’s office, 563-242-9211, ext. 4433, or email me at randymeier@gapa911.us.