‘This is crazy’: Scammers target families receiving food benefits

We’ve heard of technology, like skimmers, used to steal information from credit cards, but now crooks have found a way to swipe food benefits from local families in need.

“This is crazy and I’m not the only person,” Moneka Williams said.

Williams, a mother of four, said she was in a bad place after scammers wiped out her electronic benefits card (EBT). She relied on that money to feed her family.

“That didn’t seem fair to me at all because that means me or my kids or my grandkids don’t get to eat,” Williams said.

She was issued an EBT card by the state. It’s loaded monthly with nearly $800 of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to buy groceries, but it was recently declined.

“I looked at the app, and that’s when I realized, Miami, Florida. So, now I’m like going crazy at that point.” According to Williams, someone in south Florida stole her benefit money. Her statement shows a $765 transaction that she says she did not authorize.

Williams contacted the state, and she was issued a new card, but was told she couldn’t get that money back and would have to wait to have the card reloaded the following month.

“That’s why I contacted channel nine, because it doesn’t seem like anything is being done about the issue at all,” Williams said.

Just like credit cards, skimmers can be used to steal benefits off EBT cards, but unlike credit cards, once that money is gone there’s no getting it back.

Loss of EBT cards or funds are not protected under federal law, putting many families like Williams’ in a tight spot.

“It’s really kind of a despicable thing that anybody could have their benefits stolen,” Greg Higgerson said.

Higgerson is the chief development officer at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, his organization helps thousands sign up for SNAP benefits every year. He recommends recipients keep their account numbers and pins secure, and use a card-locking feature they can access online.

“Until the next time you get ready to use it, you go on and unfreeze it. Use the card again, and then go back on and freeze it. That can help protect between transactions,” Higgerson said.

“Something needs to be done about it,” Williams said.

Although SNAP is a federal program. In Florida it’s administered by the Department of Children and Families. If you think your benefits have been stolen, contact that agency’s office of Economic Self-Sufficiency.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.