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Columbia County residents have reported visits from purported genetic testing services

Unexpected visitors to homes in Scappoose and St. Helens have offered genetic screenings which they claim are covered by insurance, but government agencies are warning of a scam.

Residents in both cities reported earlier this month that a man in scrubs came to their door and offered cancer screenings, claiming to be with a company called Integrity Health and working with the Oregon Health Plan.

"The Oregon Health Plan is not offering door-to-door genetic testing or cancer screenings. This is a known Medicare and Medicaid scam," Sarah Kelber, a spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority, explained in an email to the Spotlight.

Medicare and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General have issued alerts about similar scams.

The alert from Medicare explains the scam: "A booth at a local health fair, senior housing, community center or home health agency is offering free health screenings, including genetic testing. The representative falsely promises that Medicare will pay for the test, and you simply need to provide a cheek swab, your ID and Medicare information to receive your test results."

"Unfortunately, now they have your health plan or Medicare number, and they can bill Medicare thousands of dollars for medically unnecessary tests or even services that you never receive. They also have personal genetic information regarding your health," the alert explains.

Scappoose police posted notice online that they had received reports of the door-to-door operation over the weekend. One victim reported the license plate number of the car driven by the man who visited the house, but police say the vehicle was not registered to the man described by the victim.

Scappoose Police Chief Norm Miller was unsure how to proceed with the suspected scam, which is new to the community.

"It's kind of a weird circumstance in itself, coming to someone's door and asking for their DNA… We're basically trying to find that person or that vehicle as of right now," Miller said.

Miller advised that if anyone is approached by someone offering genetic testing, they should call law enforcement at a non-emergency number. In Columbia County, that number is 503-397-1521. If residents feel they may be in danger, they should call 911.

Ellen Klem, director of Consumer Outreach & Education in the state Office of the Attorney General, recommended filing a report with the Oregon Department of Justice Medicaid Fraud online or at 1-888-372-8301.

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