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DNA Test Kit Scam Warning

Circulating messages warn that supposedly free DNA test kits being sent out in the mail are part of a scam designed to steal money from recipients in the form of "processing fees" as well as to procure credit card details and other personal information.

Brief Analysis
The information in the warnings is factual. A number of Australian residents have reported receiving the unsolicited DNA test kits in the mail. The kits request a processing fee of $39.99 to be paid by submitting credit card details. Authorities have issued warnings about the scam and advise those who receive the kits to throw them away and not to respond to the senders.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.

Last updated: 10th January 2010
First published: 10th January 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer

Subject: Fwd: Secrets of your DNA revealed?

January 2011: A state-of-the art DNA test that will reveal the blueprint of your genetic code and hold all the answers to your health, wealth and personal prosperity? Not likely! All it will reveal is the secrets of your credit card to scammers.

SCAMwatch has heard reports of consumers receiving a free DNA test kit in the mail and is warning you to be on the look out. Many of the kits are turning up in Western Australia, but reports are coming in nationally.

The kits, which look professional, contain a letter and a cotton swab in a sealed bag. By returning their DNA sample to an address in Canada, recipients are promised valuable and insightful information about their DNA profile, including detailed analysis about health, diet, intellect, personal fulfilment, disease prevention - even life expectancy and aspects of youthful age.

View Full SCAMwatch report

Detailed Analysis
Messages are circulating about a scam involving DNA testing kits that a number of Australian residents have received in the mail. The warnings, which circulate via email as well as forum and social network posts, claim that the senders of the supposedly free test kits try to trick recipients into paying "processing fees" by providing their credit card details. The warnings also note that a questionnaire contained in the kit may be intended to collect personal information from recipients.

The information in these warnings is valid. Australian authorities, including Western Australia's Department of Commerce, have published warnings about the scam. Information that comes in the kits promises unrealistic health and life-style benefits for those who return a DNA sample as instructed. The scam appears to be an attempt to steal money, credit card details and other private information from victims.

The kits falsely claim to be from a company called "DNA Technologies". However, the scammers have apparently hijacked the name of a legitimate company of that name without their knowledge or permission. The real DNA Technologies has denied any connection whatsoever with the scam attempts.

Western Australia's Department of Commerce has published the following news release on its website:
DNA testing kit scam hits WA homes

Issue Date: - Wednesday, 5 January 2011

WA residents have reported receiving a DNA testing kit in their mail boxes and Consumer Protection has labelled them an international scam, issuing a warning.

The kits from China, which look professional, contain a cotton swab in a sealed bag. An accompanying letter encourages the recipient to return their DNA sample to an address in Canada, which appears to be a serviced mail box address.

The kits purport to be from DNA Technologies but there is absolutely no connection to a legitimate company that operates this corporate name. This company is rightly aggrieved that their name has been wrongly associated with this venture and fully supports the Commissioner warning the public about the legitimacy of these kits.

The letter in the kit states that the “DNA model may be configured, even positioned and programmed, for stunning success, physical and mental health, affluence, significant accomplishment and the deepest sense of individual fulfilment – empowering you with a built-in edge to prosper and excel in ways you never dreamed possible.”

Despite providing the kits for free, the company is charging a $39.99 processing fee asking for the recipient’s credit card details.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll advises people receiving these kits to dispose of them.

“Clearly these kits are a scam and an attempt to receive money for what is a worthless and dubious service,” Ms Driscoll said.

“Even legitimate DNA testing can’t determine success, affluence or love and compatibility. The correspondence accompanying these materials is misleading in the claims that are being made.

“What is more alarming is that the kit also contains an offer to enter into a $10,000 prize giveaway by providing personal information in a questionnaire.

“We advise recipients of these kits to throw them away and not to respond to unsolicited mail. Providing personal and financial details to unknown persons is fraught with danger.”

In the past month, there have been 19 reports nationally from consumers receiving the kits.

Consumer Protection sought scientific advice about the kit and letter’s claims from the School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Western Australia, which confirmed the kit was a scam.

Associate Professor Richard Allcock said: “They make claims about health, diet, mood etc. and, whilst some of these may well be under genetic control, we certainly are nowhere near being able to provide that information back to individuals. They then make ridiculous claims about wellbeing and youth extension. All of these claims in the letter are patently false.

“What's unusual is that they don't make statements about what they could legitimately determine, such as susceptibility to certain diseases, responses to drugs, ancestry etc. In this regard they are simply advertising something they are incapable of providing.”

Consumer Protection is liaising with Australia Post to intercept these kits, with more than 70 being seized but many more are believed to have already been delivered to WA homes.
While the majority of reports about the scam DNA kits have so far come from Western Australian residents, a SCAMwatch article about the scam notes that some reports are coming in from other parts of Australia as well. If you receive one of the kits, the best course of action is to throw it away. Do not reply to the senders. Do not send money or personal information.

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SCAMwatch - Secrets of your DNA revealed?
DNA testing kit scam hits WA home
Warning over scam DNA testing kits

Last updated: 10th January 2010
First published: 10th January 2010
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer