DHS warns Minnesotans of rise in EBT fraud, urges protective actions

DHS warns Minnesotans of rise in EBT fraud, urges protective actions

DHS warns Minnesotans of rise in EBT fraud, urges protective actions

State officials are warning Minnesotans of a rise in fraud that’s impacting people who receive financial help to meet their basic needs.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) says the increase in Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) fraud is a nationwide issue.

Due to recent reports, the agency is urging Minnesotans to be proactive and take measures to protect their benefits. But for some, it’s too late.

“It’s been hell, excuse my language.”

That’s how Antinet described her last few days.

“The lady at the cash register told me my benefits had a zero balance,” Antinet explained.

She later found out that the food benefits for her family were wiped off her EBT card and used at a store out west.

“I found out it was in Inglewood, California,” she said, adding that she’s never been there.

DHS explained, “Skimming happens when someone copies card and PIN information from credit, debit, EBT and other cards using a skimming device placed on a store’s card swiping machine.”

Another family told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that they filed a report with Minneapolis police after discovering transactions on their account from Chicago that totaled more than $1,000.

“What are we going to do, what are we going to eat?” Antinet questioned.

“You’ve got families that are just not eating. … Like I said, it’s just hell.”

DHS says it’s important for EBT card users to regularly check their transaction history, and it’s also helpful to freeze their card when it’s not being used, block online or out-of-state transactions and change the PIN frequently, especially right before benefits are issued.

Anyone who sees suspicious activity should immediately reset the PIN, report the card as stolen and request a new card, DHS officials say. The agency adds anyone who reports EBT theft within 30 days from the date of discovery may be eligible to have those funds replaced by contacting their county or tribal nation eligibility worker.

DHS also says it will notify Minnesotans with potentially compromised EBT cards of steps they should take, like those mentioned above.

Ramsey County officials say they first started getting messages from residents about the potential fraud on Dec. 7. In just over a week, the county has gotten 111 requests for benefit replacement out of its 32,000 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cases.

“Ramsey County has received reports that monthly benefits deposited in EBT accounts were then taken the same day by unauthorized users. The county is advising our participants in SNAP, General Assistance, Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) and Housing grants to check their balance and call their caseworker if any problems are identified so we can provide immediate assistance,” a county spokesperson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “In the meantime, we are working with the Minnesota Department of Human Services to learn more about the issue. We recommend contacting the Minnesota Department of Human Services for more information as the lead on EBT benefits.”

More EBT card information and protection tips are available online.