Sunday, 19 December 2010

Warning: DNA testing

Beware! A Toronto-based genealogist friend of mine (I won't reveal the name to maintain privacy) recently received in the mail an unsolicited offer for a DNA test.  It seems pretty obvious that this is a scam, and while it may unrelated to that person's interest in genealogy it could be.

Take this as a warning. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it probably is a duck. That goes for scams.

The letterhead on the material this person received has a company name DNA Technologies with a mailing address in Surrey BC.

The mailing includes a cheek swab to take the sample, a card and plastic bag to return the sample. The covering letter starts.

"DNA Blueprinting:
The New Mode for Maximizing Health & Attaining Extraordinary Personal Success and Major Life Achievement

Discover How Your Genetic Blueprint - your very own DNA - may unlock the key to sweeping PROSPERITY, RICHES, Splendorous REWARDS and PERSONAL BREAKTHROUGHS for you!"

The letter continues in the same style.  For example:

"Most important is what your exclusive DNA Blueprint will reveal to our scientists -- and upon analyzation, moreover, how your life may be launched to exhilarating new thresholds of success and achievement. Empowering you with a built-in "edge" to prosper and excel in ways you never dreamed possible. And revealing to you unprecedented information and answers relating to health, diet, intellect, compatibility, issues, mood, personality, disease prevention -- even youth extension."

"Your only obligation is a one time processing charge of $39.99 which includes analysis, reporting and personalized report sent to you by sealed, discreet mail."

Also included is a "Confidential Questionnaire" asking a large number of questions such as gender (which a DNA test should reveal), height, weight, date of birth, whether smoker, occupation, state of health, physical or mental ailments, area of interest in knowing how DNA impacts life, greatest worry or desire. And, or course, credit card information.

What are the signs this is a scam? 

1. The return address is for a UPS Store.
2. The mailing gives no website or telephone number for contact
3. The information promised from the analysis is unsupported by science and is "too good to be true"
4. The mailing was unsolicited and asks for credit card information
5. The DNA sample is mailed back on a card which is rubbed against the swab which is not an industry standard. I asked someone in the field about this procedure and the response was "absolute scam"
6. There is no indication the DNA analysis is done according to recognized standards
7. There is no indication the raw data from the DNA analysis, which would give evidence it had been done, is provided in the report
8. The questionnaire (optional) seeks information which alone could be used to provide a plausible report.
9. In the absence of the provision of raw DNA data the product, a "personalized report," could be nothing more than a generic report with name and other information supplied added
10. The price is substantially less than for any known commercial DNA analysis.

Genealogist or not, you would be well advised to ignore any such solicitation.

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