November 2, 2020

DNA Scams: Things to know before getting DNA tests

What is a DNA scam? Is Genomelink a waste of money? We answer all your questions about the legitimacy of DNA analysis companies here!
Tomohiro Takano

Here at Genomelink, we take our job seriously. We love genetics, and we are constantly digging through scientific studies to find the coolest correlations that scientists have found between you and your genetics. We have a team of researchers that scour the scientific journals to find the most recent studies and an entire editorial team that translates this complex scientific data into reports that are meaningful to our users.

Despite our best efforts to fully explain in each of our reports that the results are simply correlations between genes you carry and certain traits researchers have identified, that has not stopped some people from claiming that DNA testing companies, including Genomelink, are simply a scam company here to rip people off and sell them “snake oil” DNA results. Other critics claim that DNA testing is some sort of privacy trap that is going to allow law enforcement officials to become an authoritarian dystopia where the government can find anyone who committed even the smallest crime. Both of these claims are quite a stretch and are simply meant to scare people into reading their articles. 

In this article, we will address all of the shortcomings of DNA analysis companies and explain our process, motives, and mission of giving everyone direct access to the joys of genetic science!

Defining a DNA Test Scam

First off, let’s start with what a scam actually looks like. Merriam-Webster defines a “scam” as a way to deceive and defraud someone, typically by taking their money in return for nothing. There have been thousands of scams throughout history, with the biggest scams stealing billions of dollars from people who were expecting to get paid in return. These fraud schemes have some very common elements. 

Fraudsters blatantly lie to get you to send them money, commit identity theft for financial gain, or promise you returns on an investment that are not mathematically possible. Most scams involve unsolicited requests, scammers asking for personal information like social security numbers, and make you pay for a product or service that you never receive.

So, a DNA test scam would be intentionally misleading or lying to consumers about results in order to get their money or personal information.   

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what third-party DNA analysis companies promise and if their promises amount to defrauding their customers. 

Genetic Testing Scams

At Genomelink, we believe that we are doing right by our customers. But, we won’t deny that there are certain genetic testing companies that are over-promising what genetic science can actually do you for. Companies that promise you can become a professional athletes solely based on genetic science are clearly making promises they can’t deliver on. 

As we have explained in our article on Correlation vs Causation, genetic testing as at best a statistical analysis. Correlation means that a trait is found more often when a person carries a particular genetic variant. Causation means that a genetic variant is entirely responsible for a trait. None of the genetic variants that we cover have shown to directly cause the traits they are correlated to. But, our editorial team is directed to make this clear in all of the reports that we publish. 

This does not mean that the results are “wrong” or “meaningless” - in fact, it is quite the opposite. Given that you have over 20,000 genes in your body, every trait that you have is typically related to many different genes that are interacting together. Even if a trait is highly correlated with a genetic variant, that is not a guarantee that you will show this trait even if you carry the genetic variant. If you think your results are “wrong,” you likely carry other genes that have not yet been measured that are overriding the trait in a way that science does not yet understand.

What does a Genetic Testing Scam look like?

In fact, the Office of Inspector General within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued a fraud alert for companies that are trying to scam Medicare recipients and Medicare beneficiaries into providing a cheek swab. These frauds are typically unsolicited (in other words, you didn’t ask for them), trying to take advantage of senior centers by stealing Medicare information, bill Medicaid, and exploit taxpayer money through Medicare fraud. In general, you should never give your Medicare number to a genetic testing company unless your doctor has approved a specific test. The Federal Trade Commission punishes these scam genetic tests seriously in the United States, and you should contact the OIG Hotline or call 1-800-HHS-TIPS if you feel that someone has tried to scam you or your family members with a genetic testing kit.

That’s not what Genomelink is about, and it is not what we do. We make it clear what you will get in your reports, we describe the accuracy and reliability of the studies that we cite, and we don’t make any promises we can’t keep.

What does Genomelink DNA Testing Promise?

The reports and traits that Genomelink covers represent the leading edge of genomics. Each of our reports covers a new aspect of health, personality, intelligence, or fitness that has recently been uncovered by genetic researchers. 

We think that the science of genetics is fun, revolutionary, and something that people want to be a part of! Our reports will tell you what genetic variants you carry, and what correlations have been found between those genetic variants and particular traits. The most common criticism we receive from critics is that “my report did not match the trait I have.”

But, we never said it would. These traits are influenced by your genetics, your environment, and by a million different interactions between different genes. Not only do many of our customers love exploring these traits and seeing how genetics affects their lives, but they like to learn about the complexities that are inherently embedded in the science of genetics. 

Plus, we are in no way stealing our customer’s money or forcing anyone to participate. You can get 25 traits for free simply by uploading your genetic data. If you like what you find, you can easily subscribe to get new traits delivered to your inbox on a weekly basis! 

Plus, if you get bored or stop having fun you can cancel your subscription at any time! You can find out more about our services on our FAQ page.

The bottom line: We think genetics is fun and want everyone to participate and engage with the rapidly expanding genetic research results! If you don’t find it valuable or fun, you don’t have to participate.

DNA scams have become increasingly prevalent in recent years as the use of DNA testing has grown in popularity. Many people are misled into paying for fake DNA test results, which can have serious consequences. To avoid falling victim to these scams, it is important to understand the signs of a fake DNA test and what someone can do with your DNA.

One of the most common DNA scams involves companies that offer DNA testing for genealogy or ancestry information. These companies often promise results that are too good to be true and provide fake results in exchange for payment. To spot a fake DNA test, look for red flags such as a company that offers results in a very short amount of time or one that charges an extremely low fee.

Another way to avoid DNA scams is to research the company before providing a sample. Check to see if the company is accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Medical Association. Make sure the company is transparent about its testing methods and that it has a privacy policy that protects your personal information.

It is important to understand what someone can do with your DNA if they obtain it through a scam. Your DNA contains valuable information about your health, ancestry, and identity, and it is not uncommon for scammers to use this information for fraudulent purposes. They may sell your DNA to other companies or use it to steal your identity.

To protect your DNA, never provide a sample to a company that you do not trust. Always do your research and check for accreditation and privacy policies before providing any personal information. Additionally, consider only using reputable, accredited companies for DNA testing.

In conclusion, DNA scams are becoming more common as DNA testing becomes more popular. To avoid falling victim to these scams, it is important to understand the signs of a fake DNA test and what someone can do with your DNA. By researching the company and only using reputable, accredited companies, you can help protect yourself from DNA scams.

The Best Part: Research on Diseases like COVID and Cancer

Beyond joining the fun of genetic research and learning about the complex interactions that make you who you are, when you contribute to a DNA analysis site like Genomelink, you are adding your DNA sample anonymously to a database that can help research diseases like coronavirus, cancer, heart disease, and more. 

In fact, researchers at 23andMe have already used their genetic database to find that people with certain blood types are more susceptible to COVID-19. To do this, they simply measured the DNA samples of people who suffered greatly from the pandemic disease and compared it to those that had few symptoms. 

So, simply by using these services you can contribute your part to advancing the science of genetics and ensuring that results become more and more predictive over time!

Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO