Sunday, February 5, 2023

Stop Thieves From Stealing Money From Your Food Stamp EBT Card

NEW YORK — Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) are facing a deluge of thefts from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. ) introduced a bill that would tighten security measures to prevent identity theft and skimming scams.

Skimming occurs when criminals place a device at an ATM or point of sale to capture the cardholder’s PIN information and the data stored on the card’s magnetic stripe.

New York State reported that thousands of New Yorkers’ EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards were stolen in 2022, resulting in a total loss of more than $730,000.

The problem, Gillibrand says, is that SNAP EBT recipients don’t have the same fraud protections as credit card, debit card and prepaid card users.

Credit, debit and prepaid card users are covered by the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) and regulations, which helps people who have been defrauded and lost and recover funds from unauthorized electronic transfers.

When the USDA switched from paper food stamps to EBT cards, it never updated its rules to protect recipients from fraud.

The SNAP Theft Protection Act would allow states to immediately redistribute stolen benefits to affected families using federal funds already allocated, and help states track SNAP theft data to determine the prevalence of crime and develop mechanisms to improve security techniques.

How to protect yourself from theft by ‘skimming’

There are several ways that you can prevent your benefits from being stolen through EBT skimmer scams.

Here are some tips from the New York City 311 system.

1. Inspect the terminal before swiping your card

Before completing the payment, please check the payment terminal. Make sure nothing suspicious is attached to the swiper or keyboard. Remember that skimmers are designed to be small and hard to see, so watch for any signs of tampering.

All pieces must be sturdy, aligned, and solidly connected to each other. If you notice a part that isn’t attached properly, that appears to be raised, or that one part of the machine is covering another where it shouldn’t, these can all be signs that a skimmer has been set up.

Be careful of loose parts or damage to the machine. You can inspect the machine with your eyes and touch it to make sure you don’t see anything suspicious.

2. Check the Security Seal

Some card readers, especially those near gas pumps, are equipped with a security seal that protects the internal technology. If the seal is damaged or compromised, it may indicate that a skimmer has been installed. Be safe and use a different payment terminal.

3. Be careful where you buy.

Skimmers are more likely to be placed in dark, inaccessible areas. You can protect your benefits by swiping your card at card readers that are located in well-lit and protected areas where it would be more risky for a thief to install a skimmer.

4. Change your PIN frequently

If your benefits are stolen, you may be able to prevent future transactions by changing your PIN. Changing your PIN frequently can help protect your benefits.

5. Use Your State’s Security Features

Some states will allow you to freeze your benefits, prevent out-of-state transactions, or implement other security features that can protect your benefits from theft. Use those features to protect your benefits.

Phishing is still a common EBT scam

The USDA issued a fraud alert in October 2022 due to increased reports of snap fishing scams.

Cardholders may receive a text message that their EBT benefits have been blocked and that they need to call an unknown number to receive benefits.

When the cardholder calls, the fraudster asks for the card number and PIN to verify the account. In such a situation, the beneficiary has to lose money.

Another common ploy is when the criminal asks the beneficiary to complete renewal paperwork, verify certain information, or request other benefits such as a free phone or a free gift card. Sometimes scammers have said that they can offer profit protection schemes. Scammers can give many different reasons to try to coerce you into making that call. Once you communicate, they will ask for your card number and PIN during the conversation.

Other scammers post links on social media offering grants, prizes or gifts to people receiving EBT benefits. When the link is clicked, you will be asked to enter your card number and PIN to verify that you are eligible for those benefits.

How to protect yourself from phishing scams

The easiest way to protect yourself is to never share your card number or PIN with anyone for any reason. Representatives of your state government office will never ask you for this information. Instead they will usually ask for your case number.

Do not click on unknown links. Do not respond to text messages from unknown numbers. Scammers will use a sense of urgency to pressure you into making impulsive decisions, so take a deep breath, calm down, and think carefully before continuing with any of these messages.

What can you do if you lose your benefits because of an EBT scam?

If you lose your benefits because of EBT scam, you should notify the state office in charge of those benefits immediately so they can cancel your card and send you a new card. If you don’t, the scammer can continue to steal your benefits month after month.

Unfortunately, the government typically does not replace stolen EBT benefits, so you may not be reimbursed for the lost money. This could be devastating for the many low-income families who depend on these benefits to feed their families. No profit can mean no food.

Can I get my money back after an EBT scam?

Generally, the government will not replace or reimburse benefits lost in an EBT scam. If you are a victim of a scam, you must tell your government office so that they can cancel and replace your EBT card.

Why are there so many EBT scams on Facebook?

There are many EBT scams on Facebook because it is easy for scammers to create new accounts and spam comments from reputable organizations. For example, many state government offices don’t moderate their comments well, so scammers can steal official-looking links. Be careful when clicking on Facebook links!

If you believe your card has been cloned and suspect skimming overlays your benefits are being stolen, call the HRA Fraud Unit immediately at (718) 722-8001.

To obtain a new EBT card and change your PIN, call the EBT Helpline at (888) 328-6399.

Nation World News Desk
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