Smarmy Upstart DNA Websites – Just Say NO!

Twice now in the last month or so, new websites that promise to provide customers with a different “better” view of their ethnicity, including ancient DNA, have popped up.

I’m not providing the links to these sites, because I do NOT want to drive any curiosity traffic there.

In both cases, the pages about the website or supposed “company” did not provide any information about the individuals behind the service.

Neither did a google search of their supposed name or LLC name.

In one case, the physical address given was illegitimate. In the newest case, this week, no address, not even a country, was disclosed.

A check of the website registration shows that it’s new and the owner’s ID is hidden.

In both cases, an e-mail sent to the address provided asking about who was behind the company and where they were located remains unanswered.

Please keep in mind that these omissions are violations of GDPR in Europe, yet there was no caveat about not accepting clients whose results fall under GDPR auspices which suggests these companies willfully disrespect regulations.

Of course, the first thing that happened was that people saw these new attractive-looking “tests” and uploaded their data immediately – then excitedly reported the results on Facebook, encouraging others to do the same.

Please, please, put the brakes on and think first.

Think, Please

Let’s look at this objectively.

The first thing the newest site does is require your e-mail address to sign up.

Off the bat, they’ve harvested that information.

Then, you upload your DNA file to some unknown person, in some unknown place.

Now they’ve also harvested your DNA.

What are they going to do with your DNA file, ultimately?

Is it going to China? Is it being sold to unknown entities? How would you know and what recourse would you have?

no free lunch

Seriously, what anonymous person would do this “for free, for fun”?

Without knowing who is behind this type of product, how would you as a consumer ever begin to evaluate their competence to provide this service? Why would you even begin to trust them if they hide their identity? This should be your first clue that something isn’t right.

Next, you discover that to see the “analysis” that you have to pay.

You’re sending your credit card number to someone you don’t know.

Now, they’ve harvested your credit card. So far, they have your e-mail, your DNA and your credit card information.

With that, you are entirely identifiable and scammable.

Those “Nigerian Princes” of yesteryear have stepped up their game with much better bait.

But, It’s Safe Because of the Lock…

No, a little lock in the url only means that communications to and from the site is encrypted, it’s not an endorsement or commentary on the legitimacy of what you are purchasing or the website owner.

If something goes wrong, you don’t even have a legitimate business name, address or identity of a person. You have no idea who to complain about, which is most likely the entire goal. If they are offshore, out of the reach of the law where you live, you can complain all day long and there’s nothing that can be done.

Nothing. NADA. You’re toast.

Stop.

Just stop.

Think.

Evaluate.

Before providing any information to a company, do your homework. Take a few minutes and research before jumping into the fire.

Stay with the major testing companies that are known and respected entities in the community. A new, anonymous, overnight upstart isn’t going to provide a better analysis than a company with population geneticists working to provide a quality user experience.

Any legitimate startup is going to be telling you WHO they are and WHY they are qualified – not intentionally remaining in the shade.

Unfortunately, bad experiences tend to tar good companies providing similar products with the same brush and we clearly don’t want that to happen.

Don’t set yourself up to become victimized, parted with both your money and your DNA due to your curiosity and love of genetic genealogy.

Please, stop and think.

If it sounds too good to be true, especially if it’s coming from an anonymous knight in shining armor from an unknown kingdom, it probably is.

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29 thoughts on “Smarmy Upstart DNA Websites – Just Say NO!

  1. Thank You Roberta, we appreciate all the work you do, to teach us and to keep us as safe as possible.

  2. Similar things are happening with online DNA tests promising medical or nutrition information. It is such a challenge! Thank you for raising awareness of this.

  3. This message brought to by Roberta Estes for Congress. =)

    I’ve been seeing those links to these no-name sites in the various Facebook groups I am a part of. I am leery about these sites. Past history has taught me not to trust certain websites on the Internet.

    I’m an administrator of a Facebook group dedicated to comics, anime and everything pop culture related. We’ve had people come in claiming to be from a news site dedicated to comic news. They post the news. People click and end up getting malware for their trouble. Malware which can really, really screw up your computer if you don’t know how to clean the bugs out.

    This is along the same lines and I really, really do not trust them. Especially if they say something like “true” in the url or something. Since I am not an admin of the genealogy groups, I can’t do much about them. What I can do is tell people to stay away from places like that.

    Great post, Roberta. Let’s spread the word. Don’t fall for false promises on the Internet. You’re only going to get into trouble.

  4. VERY good, but scarey, advice. Thanks for doing the research and background checks on the new companies.

  5. Totally agree with the overall point, but I must say it is a little difficult to take it seriously from someone who publicly recommends Promethease for health analysis.

  6. Roberta, Thank you! I had a similar experience around Christmas time. I fell for this company’s offer. I paid 125.00 for the test. The report was bogus. I did get a refund, but now they have my DNA.

  7. With tax laws and oppression by GDPR and potential of complaints it´s very understandable someone wants to remain anonymous. For a startup single individual it would be plain stupid to not be anonymous. At least in an initial phase.

    Of course they can collect the DNA raw data. One has to presuppose they do. So what? What shall be done with that raw data without connection to someone?

    Be anonymous or pseudonymous yurselves. That´s the best protection. Not only towards an anonymous company but also towards the other ones. I don´t trust them a bit.

    • You can be reidentified by using only your DNA, which is exactly what adoption searchers do every day. If a consumer does business with an anonymous entity, then buyer beware.

    • Yes, I saw that article and it sure does make me wonder. I’m guessing it’s more likely to be some kind of an insurance scam, but who knows.

  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you. In a time of social media sharing to excess, folks need to realize that not everyone or every new website is their best buddy.

    And the Congress comment above is a good one. We do need some help there.

  9. Thank you, Roberta!
    Looks like another lot of Scammers to me.
    It’s great that you are so aware for the rest of us.

  10. Thank you for this post. I had this post and one like your warning about one above the other. Thanks for the warning, I was thinking. How can they tell if you are obese, your nutrition and intelligence?
    thank you,

  11. Thank you Roberta for this warning about this anonymous site. I made the blunder of signing up with my email address, but didn’t follow through with my raw DNA data, and have no intention of doing so. I was attracted by the colorful visual displays and paintings of ancient people.

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