Fraudsters have become more active and are stealing money again. Over the past month, more than 18 reports of electronic food stamp and cash assistance theft have been filed in New York City. City officials believe money is being stolen after people swipe their debit cards at machines with skimming devices. This scam is widespread throughout the country, reports ABC7.
City officials said they were unable to refund people's money until recently because of federal regulations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which governs the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The city says more than $21 million has been issued since Aug. 4,5. The SNAP benefit replacement is being funded with federal funds, while the cash benefit replacement is being funded through funds set aside in the New York State budget, the city says.
“Until recently, victims of electronic benefit theft had no way to recover stolen funds, but now, thanks to new federal and state laws, they can recover some or all of their stolen benefits simply by filing a claim with HRA,” the city Department of Human Services said in a news release. “This is a big win for victims of benefit theft, and we look forward to helping more New Yorkers get back the money they are rightfully entitled to.”
“The money was there at midnight and I checked in the morning and it was gone,” said Tamara Simmons of Brownsville. Lola Johnson of Manhattanville said scammers stole $200 from her debit card. “They took everything!” – she was horrified.
Lashaie Simmons of Hunts Point says she's missing $160. “Whoever withdrew my money in California only left me $18.”
Daniel Clennon of East New York said he, too, was robbed. “As soon as the money was loaded onto the card, it automatically disappeared.”
Arianna Ballierage of Richmond Hill first noticed the scam in July. “As soon as I receive the money, it disappears that same day,” she said. Ballyeraj said she was never reimbursed for the $500 she stole.
How to protect yourself
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please report it immediately through your ConnectEBT account or call the EBT Customer Service Hotline at 1-888-328-6399.
You don't have to go to a SNAP or HRA office to get a replacement card. If people urgently need a new card, they can go to their local Benefits Access Center and get a temporary card, which is valid for 90 days.
When you report fraud, you will be issued a replacement card within five to seven days, keeping the money in your account.
To receive reimbursement of stolen funds, you must submit an application
You can ask for a paper application form to be sent to you by mail. Call the Department of Human Services' single number at 718-557-1399 or visit your local SNAP center. The completed application form should be mailed to the Department of Human Services, PO Box 02-9121, Brooklyn GPO, Brooklyn, NY 11202.
If your funds are stolen between October 1, 2022 and August 21, 2023 for SNAP benefits and between January 1, 2022 and August 21, 2023, you have until October 31, 2023 to file statement. Thefts that occurred before October 1, 2022 for SNAP and before January 1, 2022 for cash assistance are not eligible for cash replacement.
If SNAP or cash assistance money is stolen after August 21, 2023, you have 30 days to file a claim. If you do not know the exact date you became aware of the theft, the city advises that you leave this part of the application blank. This will not lead to the application being rejected, they said. Once your application is approved, the stolen funds will be transferred to your new EBT card.
To make a decision on the application, you must wait up to 30 days from the date it is received by the city. Shortly thereafter, replacement funds will be applied to their EBT card.
City officials are warning people to be careful when using the new EBT card - to watch out for skimming devices, otherwise the money could be stolen again.
“Be on guard at all times,” said Augusto Escalante, an employee with the city's HRA office.
Skimming devices can be detected by pulling on the credit card terminal. If it is not secured, then it is possible that scammers have installed a skimming device. You should cover your hand when entering your PIN code, as skimming machines may be equipped with video cameras. In addition, city officials recommend changing PIN codes frequently.