Thieves Using Skimming Devices To Steal Benefits from Electronic Benefit Transfer Card Users
Federal Funding Bill Includes Provision To Issue Additional Assistance to Victims of Stolen Benefits
Governor Kathy Hochul today urged New Yorkers who receive government assistance via an Electronic Benefit Transfer card to take steps to protect themselves from criminals who have been using “skimming” devices to steal the benefits from unsuspecting recipients. The Governor also thanked New York’s Congressional delegation for their efforts to secure two years of federal funding to provide additional assistance to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients who had their benefits stolen.
“It is unconscionable that thieves are stealing SNAP benefits from some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers,” Governor Hochul said. “I urge all EBT card users to stay vigilant and protect themselves, and I thank Senator Gillibrand and the New York Congressional delegation for their efforts to address what has become a national problem.”
The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which oversees SNAP in New York State, has developed outreach materials to inform EBT card users about actions they can take to protect themselves and their benefits. A video, “Act Fast!” and a flyer, “Protect Yourself from EBT Skimming,” are available for download and sharing on social media in both English and Spanish.
When shopping, consumers should inspect the card reading machine for an overlay device that may hide parts of the machine or anything unusual like glue marks, damaged or loose parts. If anyone suspects something is wrong with the machine, they should not use their card, notify a store manager, and contact their local department of social services as well as the local police.
Additionally, EBT card users should:
- Protect their benefits by shielding the PIN pad when entering their PIN.
- Change their PIN frequently and do not share it. It is best to change the PIN immediately after each transaction.
- Check their EBT account regularly for unauthorized charges.
- If a transaction is unexpectedly declined or a user receives an error code, contact the EBT Customer Services Helpline to verify the transactions on the account.
Across the country, thieves are using card skimmers surreptitiously placed over card reading machines at legitimate retailers to directly copy card and PIN information from EBT users. Scammers are then able to use the stolen data to create a duplicate version of the card, enabling them to access the compromised account and use the benefits.
As the skimming devices otherwise allow legitimate transactions to proceed unimpeded, victims are typically unaware that they have been victimized until their next attempted purchase or account balance review.
New York’s Congressional delegation worked to ensure language was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 to allow theft victims to have up to two months of benefits reinstated using federal funds for the current and upcoming federal fiscal year. The state is also working with USDA to identify options to further enhance the security of EBT cards.
Anyone who believes their benefits have been stolen should contact the EBT Customer Services Helpline at 1-888-328-6399 or go to ConnectEBT.com, and report it so they can get a new card. Suspected victims should also contact their local department of social services to report that their benefits have been stolen and file a police report with their local police department.