WSMV 4 Investigates: Scammers targeting EBT accounts

WSMV4 Investigates talked to several victims of EBT card fraud who said it could happen to anyone.
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 8:30 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A Middle Tennessee mom said all the money she had to pay for food for her family was gone in an instant.

The woman is part of a growing crime trend targeting those already in need of assistance.

Everything Bobbie Ivory had to help pay for food for that month was gone.

“They took me for everything I had on my card,” Ivory said.

Each month she counts on financial help from the state to pay for essentials like food for her family.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest federal nutrition assistance program and provides benefits to low-income families using EBT cards.

It’s what experts said make her and everyone receiving this kind of help from the government a growing target for hackers.

“This is the ultimate form of debit card because it’s replenished by the government,” J. Michael Skiba, an international financial crime expert, said.

WSMV4 Investigates contacted the Tennessee Department of Human Services about this.

A spokeswoman said they are aware of a sudden increase in EBT card fraud due to skimming, but there’s little they can do to help victims like Ivory.

Just in the last month alone the department said it’s received nearly 300 calls from people who said the same thing happened to them.

“They haven’t done anything about it. They said they’re going to go into details and find out what’s going on, but I haven’t heard from anybody.” Ivory said.

Fraud experts said whether its skimming or having your account information compromised, getting the money back is nearly impossible.

“If they do a halfway decent job of covering their tracks its almost untraceable and unrecoverable,” Skiba said.

Ivory had no choice but to figure something else out until more money was put into her account.

“I have other people that depend on me that I have to take care of, so when they’re taking from me, they’re taking from my family too,” Ivory said.

Ivory has since received a new card but wishes the state could do more.

A DHS spokesperson said the agency can’t reimburse victims for money that was stolen.

The biggest tip for users is not to give out your PIN anytime to anyone and make sure to change that PIN often.

Also, be on the lookout for anyone calling and claiming they work for the state. That’s a red flag. In most cases you will be contacted via regular mail.