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NV households seeing increase in SNAP theft

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Jeniffer Solis, Nevada Current
April 15, 2024

Nevada families in need of food assistance are at risk of losing their monthly benefits to cybercriminals as the state faces a large spike in stolen benefits through skimming and cloning.

Skimming and cloning is a high tech form of fraud allowing thieves to electronically steal Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) account information as customers swipe their card at checkout. 

Public assistance officials in Nevada saw a significant increase in EBT theft this month, costing the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in the first two weeks of April alone. From April 1 through April 10 the state has had to replace about $25,000 in lost benefits to victims of skimming and cloning theft, according to the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services (DWSS) who administer the food program.

Food assistance recipients can submit a claim to have funds replaced, but not all claims result in new funds. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, a household may only receive two instances of replacement benefits in each federal fiscal year.

As of March, the Nevada DWSS Investigation and Recovery Unit has received about 1,595 claims, and of those, about 1,025 claims were approved for replacement benefits for a combined total of $527,560.

In December 2022, President Joe Biden signed the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act into law , which included federal funding for the replacement of stolen EBT benefits.

Last July, Nevada received approval from the federal government to replace stolen Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds lost through skimming, cloning or other fraudulent methods. Since then, DWSS has received an average of about 200 theft claims per month.

It’s unclear what is causing such a large increase in theft this April, said Kristle Muessle, a public information officer for the DWSS.

Nevada is not alone. EBT theft is a nationwide problem. State fraud investigators said other states have also reported significant increases in stolen benefits, while other states have actually seen slight decreases. 

“It is not known where Nevada ranks amongst other states at this time,” said Muessle.

Nevada SNAP recipients can minimize the risk of being a victim of stolen benefits in several ways including, only using  the DWSS-approved EBT Edge app or website, changing your PIN monthly, avoiding simple PINs, and not sharing your EBT card number and PIN with anyone out of your household. 

State officials also recommend SNAP recipients check their EBT account regularly for unauthorized transactions.

Customers can report benefit theft in person at any welfare office, by phone (702) 486-1875 (Southern Nevada) or (775) 448-5211 (Northern Nevada), email, or online. After the report has been made, a claim form will be provided and must be completed and returned within 10 business days. Additional information can be found under frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Claims that are validated as skimming or cloning will have their benefits reissued. Replacement benefits cannot exceed the amount of two months of the household’s monthly allotment, or the amount of the actual loss, whichever is less.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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