Why People Sent DNA Test To Strangers

A strange thing happened around Christmas Eve of 2018. People began receiving DNA testing kits that they didn’t order. The kits were purchased and sent by strangers. This creepy situation happened when some malicious people decided to scam a “refer a friend” program.

MyHeritage, a genealogy company that sells its own direct-to-consumer DNA test kit, had a special offer during the busy holiday season. Every year, many people buy genetic testing kits as gifts for the people in their family.

MyHeritage had a “Refer a Friend” offer that was being run by a third-party platform. It worked very simply. Customers who sent a MyHeritage DNA kit to a friend or family member earned a $10 discount for the friend, and also a $10 gift card on Amazon for themselves.

It didn’t take long before MyHeritage got complaints from people who unexpectedly received a MyHeritage DNA kit that they had not ordered. It is easy to see why this could be confusing and alarming! How would you react if a complete stranger sent you a DNA test kit?

MyHeritage quickly suspected fraud on December 24, 2018. They wisely stopped issuing the Amazon gift cards on December 26, 2018, and terminated the program on January 1, 2019. MyHeritage also refunded all the purchases made under the “Refer a Friend” program, and canceled the DNA kits that were sent so that they could not be used.

An investigation was done that revealed a bit more about what went wrong. Criminal hackers were using stolen credit card and personal data to purchase MyHeritage DNA tests.

When they placed the order, they had the $10 Amazon gift card electronically sent to an email address that the hacker created. This enabled the criminal to access the $10 Amazon gift card. Privacy experts note that gift cards are common targets for criminals because the cards are difficult to trace.

Related Articles at FamilyTree.com:

* Which DNA Company Gives You a Bigger Bang for the Buck?

* Is DNA Testing Just a Fad?

* MyHeritage Introduces the Family Discovery Kit

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