How the USDA is Addressing SNAP Theft

( – SNAP benefits are a vital part of some 38 million people across the United States. The USDA is currently working hard to keep these benefits in the accounts of families that need them by combatting the methods thieves are using to steal these benefits from the people entitled to them. What does a person stealing SNAP benefits try to gain? What methods do they use? Most importantly, how can a SNAP recipient protect their benefits from being stolen? This article will answer these important questions.

What a Happens When SNAP Benefits Are Stolen

When SNAP benefits are stolen, the people who rely on these benefits to afford healthy food may experience a delay in being able to purchase the items they need. The act of stealing from SNAP benefits is fraud and harms not only the persons receiving this valuable aid, but also the government that provides the service and the taxpayers who support this program.

In 2023, Congress created a plan to make sure that recipients are compensated for their stolen benefits, called the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023. This act stipulates that federal funds can be used to replace stolen SNAP benefits, and every state was required to submit its plan for using the federal funds by February of 2023. These plans are being implemented on a state-by-state case, and some are already in effect.

How the Benefits Are Stolen

Often, SNAP benefits are stolen using a process called card skimming. An illegal device is placed on a retailer card-swiping machine, and that device is then able to create a copy of the EBT card’s information. This information can be used to create a duplicate card that a thief can then use to make purchases using the funds allocated to the original cardholder. Sometimes, the thief will only need to copy the magnetic stripe in order to make purchases using the SNAP benefits.

Once a thief has your card information, they can use your benefits for purchasing SNAP-approved items from retailers that accept SNAP.

How SNAP Recipients Can Protect Themselves

SNAP recipients can protect themselves from easily becoming victims of card skimming or other types of EBT fraud by making practical choices to protect their cards and data. These steps can include:

  • Protect your pin

    • Use a pin that is difficult to guess
    • Change your pin number regularly
    • Cover the keypad while entering your pin at the grocery store
  • Stay alert to unexpected changes to your account

    • Regularly check your account balance
    • Alert your local SNAP office as soon as you become aware of a discrepancy between your expected balance deductions and any unauthorized charges.
  • Practice scam-savvy behavior

    • Never give your EBT information to anyone who calls or texts you asking for your pin or card number.
    • Double-check any correspondence that seems like it could be a phishing scam. You can do this by calling your local SNAP benefits organization and asking if your information has been requested through any official channels.

Final Thoughts

The USDA is working hard to monitor events of fraud. They are also working with local agencies to make sure that individuals who have been victims of SNAP theft, card skimming, or SNAP phishing schemes are compensated for their lost benefits. You may be able to reduce your risk of your SNAP benefits being stolen by protecting your card and pin, monitoring your EBT account for unusual activity, and double-checking any correspondence that could be related to a scam.

Protecting your SNAP benefits through these measures not only ensures that your benefits are available when you need them but also discourages thieves from attempting to steal your benefits.

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