'This is a silent giant.' Security experts warns of skyrocketing number of 'food stamp fraud' incidents

The Turn To Tara team obtained screenshots from the dark web, which reveal that criminals are already selling stolen food stamps from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut - some even brazen enough to boast their ill-gotten gains on social media.

Tara Rosenblum and Lee Danuff

Mar 29, 2023, 9:40 PM

Updated 390 days ago

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A security expert is sounding the alarm on the increasing number of "food stamp fraud" incidents throughout the tri-state area.
Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions' government team, predicts that criminals will target tens of thousands of families across our area through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and that the government is unprepared to stop them.
"This is a silent giant," he says.
During the pandemic, SNAP was a critical lifeline for millions of people across the tri-state.
The Turn To Tara team analyzed state data in the tri-state area of who is relying on the program.
The findings include:
- 1 in every 7 New Yorkers depend on food stamps to feed their loved ones.
- 1 in 10 residents received benefits in Connecticut to feed their loved ones.
- 1 in 9 residents received benefits in New Jersey to feed their loved ones.
These people now face a growing threat.
 
"The criminal groups post-COVID who stole from unemployment insurance are now focusing their sights on the SNAP program," says Talcove.
Single mother Samantha Rivera says she still relies on the program to make ends meet. She says she is also victim of food stamp fraud.
Rivera says she was on the checkout line of a local grocery store last October when her food stamp card was denied.
"When I checked the transactions, there was a purchase made in Florida," she says. "A Sam's Club for $600."
She had to go home empty-handed.
"I was devastated because I had nothing in my fridge," she says. "I immediately went to the local HRA office. She goes 'This is happening all over.'"
She adds that it's devastating to have to choose between paying a bill and putting food on the table
Talcove estimates that food stamp fraud in the tri-state will fall just shy of $1 billion this year.
"We will have a national disaster on our hands," says Talcove. "Because right now, there's little to no enforcement, legacy technology."
He is referring to the lack of chip-enabled technology on electronic benefit cards, or EBTs, which use magnetic stripes instead. This makes them vulnerable to skimmers on the checkout lane.
The Turn To Tara team obtained screenshots from the dark web, which reveal that criminals are already selling stolen food stamps from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut - some even brazen enough to boast their ill-gotten gains on social media.
What is being done on the state level?
New Jersey said it doesn't have a tally of how many food stamp recipients have been victimized to date but did acknowledge that the problem is on the raise. It added that officials at the "federal and state" levels are working to address the issue.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a statement that "no New Yorker deserves to be left in the lurch after falling victim to these scammers." Her plan is to create a state law that would see victim's benefits replaced five days after any theft.
Connecticut officials revealed that nearly $119,000 was stolen by thieves in the past year.
If you have been a victim of food stamp fraud, the Turn To Tara team wants to hear from you.  Click here to contact us.



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