When Garrison signed up for SNAP benefits in 2012, she received an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Functioning like a debit card, money was supposed to be loaded onto her card each month. With an easy swipe, she could use the buy food for her grandson. But when Garrison was checking out at her neighborhood market in Baltimore something unexpected happened. Her card with SNAP benefits on it was declined. Garrison called the Baltimore City Department of Social Services who confirmed her account was empty and told her that the benefits had been used at a Target in Minneapolis. Welcome to the world of SNAP benefits Ms. Garrison.
A Scripps News investigation found that Garrison is one of thousands of SNAP recipients from across the country whose food benefits have been electronically stolen. To get a sense (if that is possible) of the scale of this ongoing crime, Scripps News reporters sent surveys to agencies in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. It was discovered that there were at least 106,000 cases of stolen food benefits across 46 states, costing taxpayers more than $70 million in stolen funds. Arrests of SNAP benefit thieves are rarely made because the fraudsters are long gone before the benefit recipient even files a complaint. And that means, the stolen funds are never retrieved.
Scripp News found that the EBT cards used for SNAP benefits make for an easy target. Unlike most modern credit and debit cards that have microchip and “card-tapping” capabilities, EBT cards still rely on a magnetic strip and a PIN. Basically, this equipment is just old. And it leaves EBT cards vulnerable to skimming devices used by fraudsters to capture card information. A security flaw which is robbing taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars. Time to upgrade.
Shout out to the law enforcement departments who are trying to combat this crime. A few changes in technology would make their jobs easier.
Today’s Fraud of The Day is based on article “Scripps News survey finds $70M stolen from food assistance program” published by Scripp News on December 14, 2023
Forty-six states reported, in an exclusive Scripps News survey, $70,655,962 stolen from recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Before Burnes Garrison goes to her local grocery store, she plans. She has a strict budget and a set of criteria: Is it shelf-stable? Does it freeze well? Is it healthy?
“Buy your chicken, your beef, you know, your fish and then your vegetables,” she said. “Stuff like that, you know, trying to keep healthy.” The food she buys usually lasts for a month; she tries to buy in bulk to support her family. In 2012, she became the guardian of her grandkids, who moved into her Baltimore home after their mother passed away.