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Hochul urges recipients of government assistance to protect themselves against card skimming


Tue, Jan 3rd 2023 01:25 pm

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

Gov. Kathy Hochul recently 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 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," Hochul said. "I urge all EBT card users to stay vigilant and protect themselves, and I thank Sen. 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, 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.

Hochul’s team said, “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, Hochul’s team said 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.

A press release said, “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 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 State Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, "Countless New Yorkers depend on SNAP to feed their families, and they should not have to worry about unscrupulous individuals stealing the most essential of benefits. We are grateful that our congressional delegation is taking action to help address what has become a national problem, and we encourage all SNAP recipients to pay attention to their benefits and stay informed so they know how to protect themselves and their families."

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Daniel W. Tietz said, "SNAP provides vital assistance to families with children, older adults, those with disabilities, as well as working families struggling to get by. There is no reason New Yorkers who are entitled to this assistance shouldn't be able to get additional benefits to feed themselves and their families after being victimized, and we are grateful to our federal elected officials for their action to right this wrong."

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.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng said, "SNAP benefits help provide some of the most vulnerable members of our communities the food and nutrition they need to lead healthy lives and it is important that these benefits are protected. It is saddening that thieves would stoop to the point of stealing from needy families and children, however this has become a very serious reality for many EBT card users. While there is still more work to be done to end this problem entirely, I am proud of the work I, alongside Congresswoman Velázquez, Leader Schumer, and Sen. Gillibrand, have accomplished to help protect these funds and reimburse those who are victims of SNAP benefit theft. I encourage all to take the necessary steps to protect themselves from potential EBT theft, and if such theft happens to contact our offices immediately."

Anyone who believes their benefits have been stolen can 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 can 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.

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