FRISCO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Stephanie Ingle was told it was an easy way to make money and help senior citizens, so she signed up to work as a DNA testing recruiter.
Her job was to find senior citizens, collect samples of their saliva, then send them off to labs for testing.
The tests help determine someone’s genetic risk for diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. Ingle also collected saliva samples for pharmacogenomics tests that help determine whether a person could have side effects to a specific medication.
Ingle said she was instructed to tell seniors the tests were “free” as Medicare would foot the bill.
For every test application Ingle sent off, she said she received $100.
“It sounded like slam dunk,” said Ingle. “I was like, ‘oh my god, why wouldn’t I do this.’ Work from home. It only takes 15 minutes per patient. Just think how much money I can make.”
But after testing a few friends and her parents, Ingle said the red flags starting going up.
Ingle said most of those she tested still have not received any results, but their Medicare accounts were charged months ago.
The lab billed Ingle’s parents’ Medicare accounts more than $10,000 per test. Ingle’s father’s account was billed a total of $30,533.33.
“That’s the results they got – a bill,” she said.
Ingle was recruited by a Frisco woman who worked for an Alabama company called Base Marketing Inc. A vice president for Base Marketing Inc. told the CBS 11 I-Team the company, as of this month, was no longer selling genetic tests but had been “very compliant”.
He said the company “would reach out to each patient’s primary doctor before submitting any tests to the labs.”
But Ingle said that did not happen with those she signed up. She said none of them spoke with any doctor.
Sales scripts Ingle said she was given by the company include what to say if a person is hesitant and asks, “Can my doctor run the tests?”
The script said to tell them how inconvenient it is to make an appointment with your doctor and how you would have to wait at the office “with all those sick people.”
“Why would you do that when I can do the paperwork for the same test right now at no cost to you? You painted a picture in their mind and now they understand and will now want you to do the paperwork.”
The I-Team showed the scripts to former U.S. attorney Matt Orwig.
He said, “These are the types of scripts that prosecutors love to see because it shows a pretty aggressive pitch.”
When investigating Medicare cases, Orwig said federal prosecutors look for aggressive sales tactics and whether the tests are “medically necessary.”
He said it’s illegal for recruiter to be paid based on the number of referrals.
“It’s a policy that you don’t want to encourage unnecessary use of medical tests,” Orwig said.
Ingle’s parents’ Medicare accounts were billed by BioConfirm Laboratories.
The lawyer for the company, Scott Grubman, told the I-Team in a written statement, “BioConfirm has never heard of Base Marketing [Inc], and that is not a company authorized to do business on behalf of BioConfirm. BioConfirm is in the process of investigating and, after it obtains the relevant information, will take steps to stop this unauthorized activity.”
Ingle said she regrets getting involved and wants to warn others to be careful.
“It still bothers me that I was stupid enough to fall for the whole thing,” she said. “Just be aware and run for the hills if anyone mentions DNA. That’s my best advice.”