(NEXSTAR) – Officials across several U.S. states are warning against a rise in scams that leave SNAP beneficiaries without any money in their account and no other way to buy groceries.
One mom in Oklahoma didn’t realize she had been victimized until she tried to buy a $1 drink. Her EBT card was rejected for “insufficient funds,” Nexstar’s KFOR reported. She later found out someone had spent all $462 at a market in Brooklyn, New York.
A single father of eight kids, also in Oklahoma, recently had $800 stolen from his account. “I don’t have that extra support. I can’t call my mom. I can’t call my sister. We don’t come from money; [they] took from a hard working blue collar worker,” William Hassell told KFOR.
State officials “more than 100 Oklahoma SNAP users” have been affected by card skimming attacks. Dozens of families in New York have also been victimized, according to WPIX. Pennsylvania also warned residents of scam activity last month.
SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and used to be called the Food Stamp Program. Scammers appear to be targeting the funds two ways: skimming and texts. Skimming basically steals a person’s payment information from a card reader that’s been tampered with. Another strategy, officials say, is targeting people with fake texts saying there are issues with a recipient’s SNAP account, convincing them to hand over their pin.
The USDA Food and Nutrition Service issued a scam alert in October, saying thieves were increasingly using the skimming technique to target SNAP funds.
The agency advises SNAP users to never share their PIN with anybody, check their accounts regularly for unauthorized charges, and inspect card readers for anything that looks suspicious attached before inserting or swiping. Anyone who believes they’ve been victimized by a scammer should contact their local SNAP office.
Oklahoma told KFOR the USDA doesn’t allow for stolen SNAP benefits to be reimbursed with federal funds.
Without the money restored to their accounts, low-income or no-income families may be left with few options to buy food before the next month’s benefits come in. Meanwhile, food costs continued to rise at the end of 2022. Compared to the same time last year, bread was 16% more expensive, frozen vegetables 18%, and eggs a whopping 49%.