Transnational Crime Ring Targets SNAP Recipients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Says Secret Service
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Transnational Crime Ring Targets SNAP Recipients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Says Secret Service

At least one federal agency is looking into the scam that targets low-income families’ SNAP payments as a component of wider, international organized crime.

The U.S. Secret Service reported that it has observed an increase in ATM and point-of-sale skimming over the last 18 to 24 months. Because EBT cards for SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, lack additional security elements like a chip, the agency believes they are easy targets.

According to the agency, a large number of con artists engaged in EBT fraud originate from Eastern Europe.

According to a statement from Special Agent in Charge Mike Centrella of the Secret Service Philadelphia office, “The U.S. Secret Service works closely with our law enforcement partners to investigate cases of ATM skimming in Philadelphia and the South Jersey area.”

“We encourage consumers to inspect ATMs, gas pumps, point-of-sale and other card readers before using them. Check for anything loose, crooked, damaged, or scratched and if something looks unusual, don’t use it. Taking these simple precautions can help protect consumers from becoming a victim,” Centrella stated.

Families from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York have reported to Philadelphia that almost all of the money on their EBT cards has been spent, frequently at establishments in places they have never been to. To provide for their families, many rely on the benefits.

Philly Councilwoman Cindy Bass has also been interested in the unfolding story.

“It was something that was recently brought to our attention, but it seems as if when I heard about it from Community Legal Services, which was working on these cases. Once we heard about it, it almost became as if we were hearing about it over and over and over again,” Bass stated.

Thursday, during the final meeting of the city council before the summer break, Bass presented a resolution requesting an examination of the situation.

Read Also: South Carolina Woman Faces Charges in SNAP Benefits Overpayment Scam

Additionally, Bass, a member of the committee on public health and human services, is advocating for increased oversight.

“We want to have some hearings, we want to be transparent, we want to bring folks together and have these conversations, as I said, on a city, state and federal level, and we want some action,” Bass stated.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services released the following statement in response to the resolution via email: “DHS takes fraud prevention seriously and works diligently to ensure the benefits DHS administers get to the Pennsylvanians who need them. DHS has an established process of reporting instances of fraud to the Office of State Inspector General (OSIG) for investigation and any additional action, and to the US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), which oversees SNAP and SNAP retailers nationwide.”

According to the spokesman, Pennsylvania DHS is aware of the worries and is collaborating with FNS and its EBT contractor to enhance security.

The department has received almost 4,900 claims for stolen benefits thus far in 2024. According to the spokesman, the government has reinstated more than $1 million in SNAP payments between the first of the year and last Friday.

Since the beginning of 2024, Delaware Health and Social Services has received more than 200 replacement requests; 168 of those have been confirmed as fraudulent, returning $104,601.74 in benefits that were pilfered, according to a spokesman for the agency.

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services issued a statement stating that it is keeping an eye on the situation and coordinating with federal agencies to handle inquiries and get in touch with anyone impacted.

Reference

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With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.