SNAP ‘skimming’ victims to receive reimbursement for stolen benefits

SNAP ‘skimming’ victims to receive reimbursement for stolen benefits

SNAP ‘skimming’ victims to receive reimbursement for stolen benefits

The new law comes in the form of a class-action lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court on behalf of thousands of Massachusetts families who have had SNAP benefits stolen from their accounts and are seeking reimbursement.

“We’re really pleased that Congress is moving to provide some relief to families who have been harmed by skimming-related theft,” said Betsy Gwin, senior counsel for the nonprofit Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. “We think this is a really positive step forward.”

Although the positive effects would be limited, Gwin said. More than 5,000 families in Massachusetts reported $1.6 million in stolen SNAP benefits from June 2022 to November 2022, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, the agency named in the lawsuit that oversees the SNAP program in the state.

Gwin said the reimbursement amount would only cover a fraction of the victims’ families.

“It will not cover the damage experienced by every household in Massachusetts,” Gwin said. “Many individuals and families we have spoken with over the past several months had their benefits stolen prior to October 2022, and they will not be covered by this federal provision.”

Electronic theft has increased so much in recent months that the US Department of Agriculture, which funds the program, issued a warning about SNAP skimming in late October. Scammers “skim” EBT cards via a hard-to-detect device inserted in the card reader, which allows them to steal the card number and PIN and clone the card.

Natalie Rahmsey, 71, a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit who lives with her disabled 34-year-old son in Boston, will get no relief under the new law because her money was stolen in July.

When Rahmsey went to America’s Food Basket and tried to buy $91 worth of groceries on July 11, she discovered she didn’t have enough money in her account to cover it. She later found out that someone spent $399.84 from her account July 2 at a Sam’s Club in Cicero, Ill.

Rahmsey does not have a Sam’s Club membership, nor has she ever been to Cicero, Ill.

Ms. Rahmsey’s financial situation was put under strain after she lost approximately $400 in Snap in July, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit states that Rahmsey has struggled to find her financial footing since she stopped paying for certain things and used her and her son’s limited disability income to buy food.

EBT cards are not included in the federal protections that largely shield credit and debit card holders in the event of fraud.

“This is a despicable crime that really targets the most vulnerable among us,” Maryland US Representative Charles Albert “Dutch” Ruppersberger said in a telephone interview Thursday. Ruppersberger introduced a similar bill HR 9319 to Congress in November, which would enable states to reissuance food aid stolen from federal funds.

Currently, the federal government does not require states to replace stolen SNAP funds. And although federal law prohibits states from using federal funds to reimburse victims, states are able to use their own funds — but most do not.

“How it works is that the federal government will pay for all the people who have been victimized, but it has to go through the state,” Ruppersberger said. “So we have to involve all the states in the process.”

He continued, “We’ve heard from families who had to give up Christmas presents for their children because their grocery money was stolen.”

Tony Alanez can be reached from [email protected], follow him on twitter @talanez,

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