You Snooze, You Lose

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Close-up detail of a man shopping in a supermarket

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees SNAP benefits, issued two warnings in October about food stamp scams. But despite that warning, many states are reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen benefits. In Maryland, for example, more than $178,000 in SNAP and cash assistance benefits were reported stolen from EBT cards in August- more than triple the amount reported stolen in the month prior.

SNAP benefits are commonly disbursed into electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards and though this option makes it convenient for recipients to access their funds, it also makes it convenient for fraudster to access those same funds! Using information gathered from card skimming and phishing scams, these fraudsters are acting quickly and from far away. One woman in Maryland, a mother of five, $1500 withdrawn from her SNAP account at a Tampa Target store. She has never been to Florida. Another mother in Maryland woke up to find that $1300 had been withdrawn in Miami from her SNAP account about two hours after the funds had been deposited.

You snooze, you lose, when it comes to SNAP benefits apparently. In most cases, it’s impossible to recover stolen food stamps and here may be where the crime really hurts. The Maryland Department of Human Services told both women to file a police report, but refused to replace those funds. The Department has said it can’t use federal funds to reimburse victims, however, it can use state money, although they had no advice how to get to those funds.

Great job by the USD with sharing information about these scams and giving departments and recipients the chance to install safety precautions to fight fraud. If refunding the stolen benefits to the victims isn’t something Maryland DES can do right now, maybe what they could heed the warning from USDA and set up some security features that could keep benefits secure with those in need and out of fraudsters pockets.

Today’s Fraud of the Day is based on an article “Huge spike in benefit fraud; MD families robbed by thieves in other states” published by WMAR-2 News on September 20, 2022

BALTIMORE — On Tuesday afternoon, state lawmakers will question the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Services about stolen federal assistance benefits and recertification issues.

WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii has reported extensively on thieves swiping SNAP and cash assistance benefits before families can access their funds. According to DHS, in August, more than $178,000 in SNAP and cash assistance were reported stolen, triple the amount for the month prior. Since January 1, 2022, there’s been $522,000 in reported losses. For all of 2021, $92,500 was reported stolen.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.