How to Spot a Fake DNA Test
When you send your DNA test off to a lab for analysis, you trust that the test results will be authentic and correct. In most cases, they are. However, sometimes results seem wrong or don’t line up with what you already believe to be true. You may wonder if researchers made a mistake or if somehow you got fake DNA test results. Fortunately, there are ways to spot a fake DNA test and avoid any consequences that might be attached to incorrect information.
Are DNA Test Results Reliable?
DNA tests help people learn important information about their health, family history, and current family connections. Receiving false information can cause confusion, hurt feelings among family members, and poor medical advice. Making sure every step of a DNA test has been done correctly is key to getting accurate results. While at-home DNA tests are relatively new on the market, the science behind DNA testing is well-researched and considered highly reliable when done right.
No medical testing is 100% flawless, and human error is always a possibility. There are two main reasons why your DNA test results could accidentally be wrong.
1. Using an Unaccredited Laboratory
When it comes to DNA testing, going with the least expensive testing lab may not be a smart idea. Look for a laboratory that is properly accredited by the state in which it is located. An unaccredited testing center may not have the updated technology or fully-trained analysts needed to provide you with reliable information.
2. Contaminated Sample
DNA samples can be easily contaminated if they aren’t handled correctly or if the instructions aren’t followed carefully. Even taking DNA from your tongue instead of your cheek (if that was the instruction) can make a difference. If another person touches the sample, that can also cause contamination. Make sure to read and follow all instructions that come with your DNA test kit to avoid this type of problem.
How Can DNA Test Results Be Faked?
In most cases with at-home tests, the person who is looking for information takes their own DNA sample and sends it in for analysis, and then the lab sends the results back. While mistakes are possible, there is no opportunity for fraudulent activity or faked results when tests are completed this way.
However, if someone other than the person being tested is collecting samples, delivering them to a laboratory, or distributing the results, there is an opportunity for fraud.
Some of the ways a DNA test could be faked include the following:
- Knowingly using a third-party’s DNA instead of the correct DNA
- Purposely contaminating DNA
- Ordering a fake DNA test online
If someone else is controlling the information gained through DNA test results, it is also possible the results are accurate, but the person is being dishonest. Whatever your reason for doing a DNA test, make sure you see the laboratory reports yourself — don’t count on someone else to interpret them for you. Consult with your physician if you need help understanding what the readings say.
Spotting Fake DNA Test Results
While genuine DNA results from accredited laboratories are generally trustworthy, it is possible for someone to produce fake results. A scientific review of paternity tests worldwide found that globally, between 0.8% and 30% of all paternity tests results were fraudulent — not incorrect due to contamination or poor-quality testing, but faked. Under normal circumstances, DNA paternity tests are considered 99.9% accurate.
Unscrupulous sellers offer fake DNA tests and testing reports for sale. A person may intentionally buy one of these fraudulent tests for the purpose of concealing truthful information from someone else, or they may be duped into the purchase because it is less expensive than the widely available brand name tests.
Whatever the reason, you can protect yourself by following a few guidelines.
Confirm the Source
All DNA test results come with details about the company, laboratory, or hospital where the test was conducted. If there is no phone number, website information, or physical address included with the results, that’s a major red flag that the report could be fake. If information is provided, call the lab to confirm the authenticity of your results.
Check for Accreditation
If a laboratory is not properly licensed or accredited, and that information isn’t printed on the result report, it may not be authentic. In the U.S., the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) sets the standards for DNA testing and holds laboratories to those standards through accreditation and inspections.
Because the technology needed for DNA testing has become more affordable, many companies now offer analysis. Those that are eligible for AABB accreditation are considered to be the most reliable and accurate, with well-trained staff and modern equipment that produces reliable results. Reports from a non-accredited lab may be accurate; however, if you have reason to distrust the results, having a second test done at an accredited research center is recommended.
What Does a Faked DNA Test Result Look Like?
Thanks to the popularity of at-home kits, DNA test results have become more user-friendly and are geared for the average user to understand, but that doesn’t mean you should not expect a high level of professionalism. Look for these signs that the report is legitimate:
- The report is on company letterhead with verifiable contact information
- The report is easy to read (not smudged, smeared, or looking like a copy of a copy)
- The document is professional without misspelled words or other mistakes
- The information is clear and easy to understand
If the report does not meet these standards, you may have been given a fake DNA test or fake DNA test results. Depending on your circumstance, request to take a new test from a reputable company and have the results analyzed at an accredited lab of your choosing.
Sometimes DNA tests are done for fun, like when people want to learn more about their ancestral heritage. In all cases, accurate and truthful results are to be expected, but when DNA test results are needed to verify paternity or provide important medical information, a fake DNA test could have life-altering results.
If you have any reason to believe your test has been purchased from an irrefutable seller or handled inappropriately, do the test again. Contact Genomelink for more information about how DNA testing is done, what kind of information is available, and what you should expect from a professional DNA test analysis.