State Senator Proposes SNAP Fraud Study

State Sen. Iwen Chu, D-Brooklyn, is pictured during a news conference in late March.

More than 61,000 New Yorkers have filed a claim of EBT fraud over the past nine months. State Sen. Iwen Chu thinks the problem may be even worse.

Chu, D-Brooklyn, recently introduced legislation (S.9649) to require the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to conduct a study on the prevalence of supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefit fraud. The study shall include a detailed evaluation of the prevalence of stolen SNAP benefits, and examination of current barriers to technological advancement of the electronic benefit system, and any other information the commissioner deems appropriate.

“With the continued claims of SNAP and EBT fraud increasing, New York must begin identifying the ways in which these benefits are stolen,” Chu wrote in her legislative justification. “This legislation requires the commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to conduct a study on the prevalence of SNAP benefit fraud. This bill will identify the common tactics used by scammers, and report any recommendations on how to evolve EBT technology to prevent extreme levels of fraud. This legislation will also better align New York statutes to federal guidelines.”

Earlier this year, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new tool for New Yorkers who receive government assistance via an Electronic Benefit Transfer card to protect themselves from criminals who use “skimming” devices to steal benefits. Beginning Feb. 21, a new EBT lock/unlock tool on the ConnectEBT app allows card users to lock their EBT cards when not in use to protect their benefits from scammers. The new tool was introduced after a rash of incidents in which thieves using card skimmers, covertly placed over card reading machines at legitimate retailers, copied EBT card and personal identification number information from EBT users.

Scammers use the stolen card data to drain money from victims’ EBT accounts. The new lock/unlock EBT card feature helps prevent skimming theft by enabling EBT cardholders to quickly and easily lock their card through the ConnectEBT app after making a purchase. Locking the EBT card blocks all purchases, balance inquiries, and transactions on the card.

“Low-income New Yorkers shopping for food and other essential items for their families should never have to find out at the checkout that their benefits have been stolen by scammers,” Hochul said. “We will continue to take action to protect New Yorkers from scam-related theft and ensure that EBT cardholders have effective tools to protect their benefits.”

Several pieces of legislation have been introduced in the state Legislature to deal with the issue of EBT theft as well. A.9269B/S.8662A has passed the state Senate but is waiting for action in the state Assembly. It would require electronic benefit transfer systems to allow for benefit recipients to cancel or lock a credit or debit card when fraud has been suspected or reported, require any interactive voice response system associated with an EBT system include an option for benefit recipients to report fraud and cancel, lock or unlock their EBT card.

A.9607/S.8918 would require EBT systems to include automatic credit or debit card cancellation when fraudulent activity has been reported. A.8372 would create a class D felony for theft of an EBT card with a fine of up to $10,000. Another bill, A.4096, would require the implementation of an EBT system that is contactless.


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