DSHS launches claims process to replace stolen food benefits for Washingtonians
Contact: Norah West, DSHS Media Relations, 360–489–5587
Sept. 5, 2023
OLYMPIA, WA — People whose food benefits were stolen through card skimming or other similar fraudulent activity can now submit a claim to the Department of Social and Health Services to have some of those benefits replaced. The U.S. Congress passed a law earlier this year that enables state agencies administering Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, known as Basic Food in Washington state, to replace some food benefits stolen through skimming, cloning or similar fraudulent activity.
“Over the last year, we have seen a significant rise in the number of people losing their vital access to food benefits through card skimming and cloning schemes,” said Babs Roberts, director of DSHS’ Community Services Division, which administers SNAP benefits. “More than 2,000 customers have reported more than $1.2 million in stolen benefits since October 2022. Prior to this year, federal rules prohibited replacement of stolen food benefits, but we are pleased to have a USDA-approved plan in place now so people can get back some of what they lost.”
Skimming occurs when devices illegally installed on ATMs or point-of-sale terminals capture card data and record PIN numbers. Criminals can use the data captured by skimming or other means to create fake EBT cards and then use those to steal from households’ accounts. Other methods of fraud include scamming through fraudulent phone calls or text messaging that mimic official state agency messaging, phishing and card cloning. A theft that results from any of these methods is also eligible for replacement.
Customers who believe they are victims of food benefits theft can submit a claim in person, by phone, through secured email, U.S. mail or fax. Customers who had food benefits stolen between Oct. 1, 2022 and Aug. 22, 2023 have until Oct. 22, 2023 to submit a claim. Otherwise, customers must submit the claim within 30 days of discovering the loss.
While the federal government acted to help people who had their food benefits stolen through skimming, state rules still prohibit the replacement of cash benefits at this time. DSHS continues to work on a long-term plan to address this issue. Last year, customers lost $385,000 in skimmed cash benefits, and DSHS replaced $226,800 (58%) under a special approval by Gov. Jay Inslee. This approval allowed the department to replace $300 to households affected by cash benefits skimming from March through December 2022.
Customers are encouraged to continue to report benefits theft so DSHS can track these losses, and to continue to be diligent in protecting their personal information and preventing fraud by using the helpful tips included in this brochure.
Home and Community Services customers who believe they might be victims of food benefit theft should contact their assigned public benefits specialist. Developmental Disabilities Administration customers should call 855–873–0642.
For more information on the food benefits claim process and how to prevent EBT fraud, visit dshs.wa.gov/esa.