UPDATED! Watch Out for These DNA Test Scams and Sales Tactics

Genealogy author & educator Thomas MacEntee offers advice on DNA test kits. Beware of these scams and sales tactics found on the Internet!

Tips on Avoiding DNA Test Scams and Getting the Most for Your DNA Dollar

As the use of personal DNA tests increases in popularity, there is also an increased focus from media on the topic of DNA, privacy, and family history. In addition, you can bet that the opportunists looking to make quick money are coming out of the woodwork! Even the most savvy shopper or knowledgeable genealogist can get taken in on some of these tricks, many of which have increased in their sophistication!

Stay Safe – Use a Reputable DNA Testing Company

  • Avoid Review Sites on the Internet. Many of the review sites that you find out on the Web tend to be “gamed” . . . meaning that they accept payment for posting positive reviews or use affiliate links to make income on positively reviewed products (especially without full disclosure as to the affiliate relationship). For reliable reviews of DNA test kits, stick with reputable review sites. See The Best DNA Ancestry Test, a review from the Wirecutter website.

Watch DNA Prices – Not Too Low and Not Too High

Last year for Black Friday, I predicted that the lowest price we would see for a DNA test is $49 for a basic autosomal DNA test (and that won’t include shipping)! This year my prediction of a $39 for the 2019 Holiday Season has come true thanks to MyHeritage!

  • Watch out for super low prices such as $29 USD for a DNA testing kit. Many of these tests are only for the DNA collection materials (spit or swab) and then you are required to pay extra to actually get your results!
  • Don’t overpay with DNA tests! The converse of the above warning is just as true. Check out the AGS Health & Wellness Genetic Test by Advanced Genomic again via Amazon, priced at an unbelievable $499! There are not many reviews (that should make you suspicious), and one of the critical reviews points out that you are not getting any more information than a lower priced DNA test with health data would provide. Again, you would be better off going with the 23andMe Health + Ancestry test, regularly $199, now just $99! Click HERE to view all current sales on DNA test kits.
  • A DNA certificate is not worth anything. Look closely at the Premium Female DNA Test mtDNA by DNA Consultants via Amazon, another over-priced test (an amazing $199!). It provides a fancy, authoritative looking certificate that is actually worthless. Big deal, it says you took a DNA test – good for you! And it lists your haplogroup! Wow! These certificates cannot be used legally or to prove any genealogical research. Don’t waste your time and money on them. You would be better off purchasing the mtFull Sequence test at Family Tree DNA, regularly $199 USD, now just $139! Click HERE for more information.

Access to Your DNA Test Results is Important!

You pay good money for a DNA test and you should have easy access to the raw data from the DNA test results.

  • Any reputable DNA testing vendor will provide an easy way for you to download the raw DNA data and let you keep it to use at other sites. You should never have to pay extra to get your DNA data.
  • Make sure you safeguard your DNA test results. This includes backing up any DNA data files on your computer and not posting your raw DNA data unless you are familiar with the website (like GEDmatch).

Be Wary of These DNA Test Claims

There are TONS of myths, urban legends and outrageous claims when it comes to DNA testing. Again, the reason? The increasing popularity of at-home DNA testing. See the recent article DNA Fact or Science Fiction? 6 Genetic Genealogy Myths at Family Tree Magazine.

  • Avoid DNA tests that say they can prove Cherokee or other specific Native American tribe identification. There is no such technology or DNA test available at this point in time. Some reputable tests, such as AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA will show Native American ethnicity in your ethnicity estimate although the accuracy of such estimates is in dispute.

In fact, here is the statement on Native American ethnicity estimates from the AncestryDNA website: “The AncestryDNA test may predict if you are at least partly Native American, which includes some tribes that are indigenous to North America, including the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The results do not currently provide a specific tribal affiliation. (Please note that your AncestryDNA ethnicity results cannot be used as a substitute for legal documentation.)

In addition, see Genetic Markers Not a Valid Test of Native Identity.

  • Paternity DNA tests cannot be used for genealogy and family history research. If you think hearing “you are NOT the father” will help with genealogical research, then think again. Many of these tests are very low priced ($19.99 and up), but don’t provide any real usable data or allow you to match with other DNA testers.
  • A reputable DNA testing company should be able to provide documentation on the science behind its testing methodology. In addition, that documentation should be peer reviewed! Some DNA tests are making unfounded claims in terms of specific migration routes and locations. Other tests are based on unsound research that has been disputed by the genetic genealogy community. Click HERE for an example of AncestryDNA’s documentation.

Medicare DNA Test Scam

I’m always amazed at how some people focus their time and energy on scamming others, especially the elderly.

  • Fraud Alert: Genetic Testing Scam involving Medicare. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in late September 2019 issued a warning to consumers about DNA testing services that bill such services to your Medicare account. Many of these fraudsters set up a “free DNA screening” booth at a local event or in front of a supermarket. Some have reported receiving a DNA test kit in the mail unsolicited. All of these scams try to get access to your Medicare billing information to overcharge Medicare (as much as $10,000 for the DNA test!). Click HERE to read the recent HHS Office of the Inspector General warning.

Yes, Virginia, There is DNA Spam!

Keep in mind that when anything becomes “popular” the spammers are sure to try and find opportunities!

  • Verify all emails related to DNA test purchases and results. Lately we’ve seen many “phishing” emails either verifying the purchase of a DNA test that you never made OR telling you that your DNA test results are ready. If you did in fact purchase a DNA test or are awaiting results, ALWAYS go to the DNA testing company’s website, log in and you should see a notification on the website.
  • Manage Your DNA Test Result Notifications. Once your DNA test results are ready, the DNA testing company will update you via email when you have new matches with others who have tested (if you gave your consent to be matched). These emails are not spam, per se, but if you are overwhelmed by the frequency, visit the DNA testing company website and change your notification settings.

Stay Educated and Stay Safe

In addition, remember, when it comes to DNA products and services, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Check out the many FREE DNA education tools and resources at DNA Bargains BEFORE you decide to purchase and take a personal DNA test!

©2019, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.