HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ohio (WOIO) - A Highland Heights cancer survivor claims to be the victim of an online health scare scam targeting some of the most vulnerable members of society.
Cherie Zamecnik reached out to 19 News for help after she said she fell prey to the scheme on Facebook.
“It just sounded so right,” she said. “But it was so wrong.”
The video, which was published by a page titled Health Awareness Project, urges cancer survivors to use the company’s DNA testing kit to screen for cancer and potential cancer risk factors.
As a kidney cancer survivor, Zamecnik signed up. She was required to provide her Medicare ID number.
“I thought it would be a good idea to make sure my kids wouldn’t get what I had,” she explained.
But she soon changed her mind.
“I was second guessing myself, so I did some research and everything I was looking up was saying it was a scam.”
She called the company back and asked them to cancel their shipment. The package still came to her home anyway.
After consulting with and filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Zamecnik said the FTC told her to refrain from opening the package and send it back.
The primary concern is that the company uses the information obtained to bill Medicare.
Zamecnik said her plan had not yet been billed.
Just last year, the AARP published an article on its website warning of similar scams, writing:
In Kentucky, Attorney General Andy Beshear has launched an investigation after Louisville residents reported a suspicious van driving around and its occupants paying Medicaid participants $20 in exchange for a DNA sample and health insurance information, according to his spokeswoman Crystal Staley.
In a warning, Beshear said scammers were trying to steal victims' insurance and personal information in order to be reimbursed for services that either were not provided or medically necessary.
"They prey on the vulnerable, Zamecnik said. “People that have had cancer. And that’s what’s so upsetting to me.”
19 News reached out to the Health Awareness Project via the phone number listed on its Facebook page. After getting through to what was described as the customer service department, a woman answered the phone.
We flat out asked if this was a fraud?
The woman insisted the company is legit.
But like Cherie, our research found several examples of the same thing happening in others states.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has even issued warnings.
“I’m the most cautious person, anybody will tell you. If I fell for it, there’s going to be other people that fall for it.”
Coincidentally, there is a program at John Carroll University in University Heights titled the Health Awareness Project. A spokesperson told 19 News it is completely unrelated to the company involved in the alleged scam.
Facebook acknowledged our request for comment but as of late Thursday evening the company has not provided a formal response.