Food stamp fraud victims could be reimbursed due to new federal funding

Feb 1, 2023, 7:17 PM | Updated: 7:29 pm

OREM, Utah – In early January, Brian Lickey discovered someone was using his food stamps card for a spending spree in Arizona.

“There are charges that landed within seconds or less than of each other,” Lickey said.

The dozens of transactions quickly drained Lickey’s entire benefits balance in about 24 hours.

“It was gut wrenching,” he said. “$3,600 all told.”

He reported the fraud to police and learned that his case was connected to about 10 other fraud reports due to a skimmer in the self-checkout at the Orem WinCo.

“We know there are other cases,” Lt. Nick Thomas told KSL TV in January. “That money was stolen using a skimmer at WinCo here in town.”

Currently, food stamp EBT cards function like cash and the benefits can’t be recovered once used, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. However, that will soon change.

“The Omnibus bill that passed in December did specify that the states will be able to use federal funding to reinstate some of the stolen/skimmed benefits,” a statement from Workforce Services said.

Utah is currently submitting plans for how to administer the federal funds and anticipates having the program in place sometime this spring.

“Once the approval is given, states will be able to roll out this process covering retro-active events dating back to Oct. 1, 2022,” the statement went on to say.

Police reports obtained by KSL TV show that an officer responded to the WinCo on January 2 for a fraud report.

“Four suspects replaced an electronic checkout device in the self-checkout area with their own,” the report said.

The report indicated that the skimming device had been in place since Nov. 26, 2022. A separate police report reveals that officers responded to the same WinCo in Aug., 2022, and also found a skimming device in the self-checkout area.

Workforce Services told KSL TV that it is also looking at adding additional security features to the EBT card. Options include a chip that would encrypt data and instant notifications about transactions.

“Unfortunately, in the last couple of years, what we have seen–in addition to the case out of Orem–is that this has become a more common threat that keeps happening,” said Muris Prses, the eligibility services assistant director at Workforce Services.

“It truly is heartbreaking for the families who are experiencing this,” Prses added.

Orem Police confirmed with KSL TV that state and federal agencies are assisting with the investigation.

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Food stamp fraud victims could be reimbursed due to new federal funding