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Protect Yourself from This EBT Scam in 2023!

Protect Yourself from This EBT Scam in 2023!

If you’ve ever lost your benefits to an EBT scam, then you know it’s a heart-wrenching experience with no good solution. The government typically will not replace lost EBT benefits, even if those benefits are stolen by scammers. If you don’t protect your benefits, you could be left without food for your family. That’s a situation that nobody wants to face.

Unfortunately, EBT scams are on the rise all over the country. The rates of EBT theft spiked throughout 2022, hitting record numbers unseen before. For example, MassLive reported that in a two month period during summer 2022, more than $1 million in SNAP benefits were stolen from Massachusetts families. That’s just the impact in one state over a two month period.

Obviously, there’s good reason to worry that you may someday lose your benefits to an EBT scam. However, there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Skimmers will be the most common EBT scam in 2023.

Skimming devices placed on payment terminals can steal your card number, PIN and other information required to make purchases. The thieves can use that information to make fraudulent purchases, using up the recipient’s EBT benefits.

This is how Jenneau Florez lost over $4,100 in EBT benefits in November 2022. She purchased $27 worth of gas station coffee and milk… and then lost over $4,100 to scammers who had stolen her benefits. The thieves used her benefits to make 42 different purchases over a two-hour period. The purchases were made out-of-state, far away from where Jenneau actually was. The purchases averaged around $200 each, and quickly used up all the money that Jenneau had been saving.

How the EBT Skimming Scams work

Skimming devices can be attached to any payment terminal, which makes them very dangerous and very difficult to spot. In Jenneau’s case, the thieves had installed a skimming device on the payment terminal at the gas station. As soon as they had her card number and PIN, they were able to use up those benefits immediately.

Although skimmers can pick up information about debit and credit cards as well, these scams disproportionately affect low income customers using EBT cards. That’s because the banking industry has adapted to the threat of skimming devices by implementing better card technology, like chips, for debit and credit cards. These security features are not available for EBT cards, making them more vulnerable to theft than other payment methods.

Once the data is collected, it can be used to create a counterfeit card that uses the same information as the original card. The scammer can then use their fake card to steal your real benefits.

How to Protect Yourself from EBT Skimmers

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prevent your benefits from being stolen through an EBT skimmer scam.

Inspect the terminal before you swipe your card. Before you complete the payment, check the payment terminal. Make sure that there’s nothing suspicious attached to the swiper or keypad. Remember that skimmers are designed to be small and hard to see, so you need to look for any signs of tampering.

All of the pieces should be sturdy, aligned and solidly connected to one another. If you see any piece that isn’t well-attached, appears to be raised, or like a part of the machine is covering another part where it shouldn’t, these could all be signs that a skimmer has been installed.

Beware of loose pieces or damage on the machine. You can inspect the machine by sight and by touch to ensure that you don’t detect anything suspicious.

Check the security seal. Some card readers, especially those near gas pumps, are equipped with a security seal that protects the technology inside. If the seal is damaged or compromised, it could indicate that a skimmer has been installed. Be safe and use a different payment terminal.

Be careful where you shop. Skimmers are more likely to be placed in dark, unattended areas. You can protect your benefits by only swiping your card at card readers that are placed in well-lit, attended areas where it would be riskier for a thief to place a skimmer.

Change your PIN frequently. If your benefits are stolen, you may be able to prevent future transactions by changing your PIN. Changing your PIN often can help protect your benefits.

Use your state’s security features. Some states will allow you to freeze your benefits, stop out-of-state transactions, or implement other security features that can protect your benefits from theft. Use those features to protect your benefits.

Phishing is still a common EBT scam as well.

Phishing is another common EBT scam that won’t be disappearing in 2023. In fact, the USDA put out a fraud alert in October 2022 due to the increased number of SNAP phishing scams that were being reported to their office.

This is how a mom in Chesterfield, Virginia, lost her benefits. She received a text message that claimed her EBT benefits had been locked and she needed to call a number in order to unlock them. When she called, the scammer asked for her card number and PIN to verify the account. The next month when she went shopping on the first, her purchase was declined due to insufficient funds. The scammers had stolen $912, leaving her family just $14 for the entire month. The benefits had been used in Phoenix, Arizona, over 2,000 miles from where she lived.

How EBT Phishing Scam Works

Most commonly, criminals will send fake text messages asking users to call a phone number due to an urgent problem with their benefits. In other variations, they may say that you need to complete renewal paperwork, verify some information, or apply for other benefits like a free phone or free gift card. Sometimes, scammers have said that they can offer a protection plan for benefits. The scammers can give you many different reasons to try to compel you to make that call. Once you reach out, they’ll ask for your card number and PIN during the conversation.

Alternatively, some scammers will post links on social media offering grants, prizes, or freebies to people who receive EBT benefits. When you click on the link, you’ll be told that you have to enter your card number and PIN in order to verify that you receive those benefits.

Just like with the skimmers, anyone who has that information can use it to steal your benefits.

How to Protect Yourself from a EBT Phishing Scam

The easiest way to protect yourself from this EBT scam is to simply never reveal your card number or PIN to anyone, for any reason. The representatives at your state government office will never ask for this information. They will usually ask for your case number instead.

Don’t click unfamiliar links. Don’t answer text messages from unfamiliar numbers. Scammers will use a sense of urgency to pressure you to make impulsive choices, so take a deep breath, calm down and think carefully before you follow up on any of those messages.

What can you do if you lose your benefits to an EBT scam?

If you lose your benefits to an EBT scam, you need to notify the state office in charge of those benefits right away so that they can cancel your card and send you a new one. Until and unless you do this, the scammer will be able to continue stealing your benefits month after month.

Unfortunately, the government typically does not replace stolen EBT benefits so you may not be reimbursed for the funds that were lost. This can be disastrous for many low income families, who rely on these benefits to feed their families. No benefits could mean no food.

If that happens, don’t forget to turn to other sources for help. Your local food bank may be able to help you through this difficult time and there may even be hardship grants that can assist you while you wait for the next disbursement.

FAQs about EBT Scams

If you have a question about a specific EBT scam, or if you’ve heard a rumor about a new scam, let us know in the comments. In this section, we’ll address the most common questions we’ve received about this issue.

Can I get my money back after an EBT scam?

Usually, the government will not replace or reimburse benefits lost to an EBT scam. If you are the victim of a scam, you will need to let your government office know so they can cancel and replace your EBT card.

Why are there so many EBT scams on Facebook?

There are many EBT scams on Facebook because it is easy for scammers to create new accounts and spam the comments of reputable organizations. For example, many state government offices do not moderate their comments well so scammers can sneak links in that look official. Be very careful when you click links from Facebook!

Is Providers an EBT scam?

No, the Providers app is not an EBT scam. The Providers app can help you track your balances and manage your benefits, but they do not steal them.

Nicole is the owner and lead researcher for Low Income Relief. She has over 20 years of professional research and writing experience, and she has been solely dedicated to investigating low income topics for the last 10 years. Nicole started Low Income Relief after a personal experience with poverty. When her husband was medically discharged from the US Army, their family experienced tremendous financial hardship. Nicole was able to gather help from multiple community agencies and move into a nearby low income housing unit in just two weeks! Since then, Nicole has been dedicated to helping low income families in crisis. She regularly spends hundreds of hours combing through countless resources to make sure that Low Income Relief has the most comprehensive and complete resource directories on the internet today. Prior to starting Low Income Relief, Nicole worked as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter and content creator. Her work has been featured in various print and online publications, including USA Today, The Daily Herald, The Chronicle and more. Her work has also been featured by Google for Publishers and other leading industry publications.


Friday 24th of March 2023

My neighbor had a pending balance for 260.but has only received $25.00 for the past two months.