As EBT ‘Skimming’ Increases, More Ohioans Turn to Food Banks

By Nadia Ramlagan
Ohio News Connection

The federal SNAP program allows nearly 1.3 million Ohio families to put food on the table, but when many recipients attempt to use their card at a store, increasingly they are told they do not have enough funds.

At grocery and convenience stores across the state, fraudsters are installing illegal skimming devices capable of reading cards as they are swiped and using the card data to steal money.

Alisha Love, an EBT card user, said she has been a victim of EBT theft more than once. She believes the state and federal government should invest in chip security for SNAP to better protect people relying on the program.

“I haven’t even gotten reimbursed for the first one, and I’m working with Legal Aid right now,” Love said. “My kids need money to eat. Right now I am using cash, and it is bleeding me dry from all the finances.”

The Ohio benefits office recommends SNAP recipients change their pin number immediately after they suspect being scammed and replace their EBT card by calling 866 386 3071.

This year, 44 states have reported more than 160,000 cases of fraudulent EBT card transactions.

Phaleys Lopez, an EBT card user, said being scammed prevented her from being able to buy formula for her infant son.

“I always buy the formula for my son with the EBT,” Lopez said. “That specific Gerber, I can only buy it with the EBT or cash. I ask the father of my son to buy some when I can’t.”

Hope Lane-Gavin, director of nutrition policy and programs for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said victims of EBT card skimming typically have no choice but to turn to food banks to feed their families, and pantries are already struggling to keep up with demand.

“These are people who have applied, have followed the rules, have been approved for the benefit, who then got their card and are doing everything normal,” Lane-Gavin said. “Everything that they’re supposed to do.”

EBT card users who suspect they’ve been scammed can request replacement benefits within 90 days from the date they were stolen, by either mailing or hand-delivering a signed Job and Family Services form to a local county Job and Family Service office. 

Lane-Gavin added that a temporary fix allowing victims of EBT theft to receive replacement benefits will expire Sept. 30, without additional action by Congress.

Pictured at top: Skimming devices placed in grocery and convenience stores can be used to steal EBT card funds from low-income people. (Adobe Stock)

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.