Today, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) announced the introduction of the SNAP Theft Protection Act, federal legislation that would modernize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to better protect beneficiaries from having their benefits stolen through identity theft and skimming scams. The legislation is led in the House by Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger.
Skimming occurs when criminals place a “skimming” device on an ATM or POS (point of sale) device to capture a person’s PIN information and the data stored on the magnetic strip of the SNAP EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card. This allows thieves to use that information to duplicate the EBT card and to access the benefits in the SNAP beneficiary’s account, even without the original card. Unlike credit card, debit card and pre-paid cardholders who are covered by the federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and Regulation E against losses from unauthorized electronic transactions, SNAP EBT beneficiaries are not afforded the same protections. New York State reports that thousands of New Yorkers have had their EBT cards skimmed and benefits stolen this year, losing a total value of more than $730,000.
The SNAP Theft Protection Act would allow families conned in skimming scams to recover their SNAP EBT benefits by directing states to promptly reissue stolen benefits to affected households using already allocated federal funds. The legislation would also help states track SNAP skimming data to determine the pervasiveness of the crime, and develop mechanisms to enhance security technology.
“Every day, more low-income households are at risk of losing their SNAP benefits and facing hunger without the possibility of justice. People who rely on SNAP benefits to feed themselves and their families face an even great risk of food insecurity and economic instability when their SNAP benefits are stolen,” said U.S. Senator Gillibrand. “These scammers are targeting some of our most vulnerable communities. It’s a disgrace, and we must meet the need to stop people from having their SNAP benefits stolen without recourse. Unlike regulations that apply to credit card theft, the recourse for SNAP theft is based on the 1996 system when paper food stamps were still in use. Once the use of paper food stamps was phased out, USDA never issued updated regulations to reflect changes in technology. That’s why I’m calling on USDA to bring regulations for SNAP into the 21st century to help protect these lifesaving benefits that keep our communities fed and put a stop to theft.”
“The SNAP benefits provided to low-income households are intended to be used to purchase food, alleviating the pressure of worrying about sourcing their next meal,” Senator Cardin said. “Unfortunately, vulnerable seniors, families, and disabled individuals in Maryland and around the country have had their benefits stolen by perpetrators of identity theft and card-skimming crimes. These families have been left at risk, without adequate food and with little recourse. Our proposal will right these wrongs by allowing federal funds to be used to reimburse victims of SNAP theft and increase state reporting, data collection, and tracking on theft, ensuring no further harm is caused.”
“We cannot sit by while hackers prey on vulnerable Americans in need, stealing the money they are using to feed themselves and their families. That’s why we need to pass this legislation and provide victims of SNAP benefit theft with the security of knowing they’ll be able to put their next meal on the table,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“There is not one community in this country who is not affected by this deplorable crime right now, which robs struggling families, seniors and disabled Americans of their monthly food budgets,” Congressman Ruppersberger said. “This is common sense legislation that uses already-allocated federal funds to make them whole and I am pleased, but not surprised, that it is gaining support from both sides of the aisle. I hope that we can pass it in record time.”
Click HERE for more information on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of skimming scams.