The vast majority of SNAP recipients and stores play by the rules. FNS works aggressively with state and federal partners to identify fraud and abuse, and hold people accountable when they don’t follow the rules.
FNS studies attempts to sell SNAP benefits, and identifies program improvements to correct mistakes and eliminate waste, and help prevent scams. Studies and analysis enable development of new rules and new policies related to fraud. Electronic benefits transfer (EBT) enables FNS to identify suspicious behavior, conduct investigations, and collaborate with other investigative agencies. You can help by reporting suspicious activity.
Recent areas of oversight and improvement:
1. Reducing Improper Payments and Errors
FNS works to ensure that only eligible individuals and families participate in SNAP, and that they receive the correct amount of benefits. Examples of our work to improve the accuracy of SNAP eligibility determinations include:
- SNAP Quality Control (QC) has determined that over 98 percent of SNAP recipients are eligible.
- Program rules require states to take additional action to ensure that ineligible people do not receive benefits, e.g., cross checking information against several federal databases.
2. Pursuing Retailer and Recipient Fraud
SNAP fraud is very rare. But when it does happen, it undermines the public’s confidence in the government and the Program. FNS has a team of analysts and investigators located across the country that is dedicated to monitoring retailers’ compliance with rules. FNS aggressively combats new fraud scenarios such as:
- Updating the definition of trafficking to include new schemes;
- Publishing a new rule to enable states to require contact from households that request multiple replacement EBT cards without explanations; and
- Providing technical assistance to states on how to monitor social media and popular websites, such as Craigslist, for attempts to buy or sell benefits. Furthermore, FNS has contacted social media companies and websites for their help in preventing program fraud.
3. Combating Misuse of Benefits
Selling SNAP benefits for cash is called trafficking. It is illegal and punishable by criminal prosecution. FNS has implemented several measures to reduce the frequency of trafficking by:
- Monitoring stores and conducting undercover investigations;
- Strengthening rules related to sanctions and penalties for retailers;
- Permanently disqualifying stores for trafficking and sanctioning stores for other violations such as the sale of ineligible items; and
- Notifying states about recipients with suspicious transactions so that the recipients can be further investigated.
4. Preventing Fraudulent Retailers from Returning to the Program
Although infrequent, retailers may submit fraudulent applications. When this happens, they are often trying to accept SNAP benefits at a location where their approval was previously revoked. FNS has strengthened the approval process by:
- Increasing documentation requirements to verify the identity of store owners and ensure business integrity;
- Establishing new timeframes for renewing approvals at locations where a prior owner was disqualified; and
- Implementing criminal penalties for falsification of documents, e.g., a $10,000 fine, or imprisonment for as long as 5 years, or both.
5. Retailer Sanctions – Final Agency Decisions (FADs)
FNS now publishes Final Agency Decisions (FADs) that result in disqualification or sanction for public review.
- Routine Checks with Neighboring States to Prevent Duplicate Participation and Performing Deceased and Prisoner Verification Matches (issued 11/15/11)
- The use of FNS provided data on retailer disqualifications to investigate suspicious recipient transactions (issued 10/14/11)
- Fraud Policy: 7 CFR 273.16 (issued 02/04/04)
- Cooperation With Fraud Investigations (issued 4/24/03)
- Revisiting Policy Regarding Head of Household as Individual Responsible for Intentional Program Violations (IPV) (issued 6/04/01)
- USDA Announces Additional Steps to Reduce Fraud and Misuse in SNAP
- USDA Announces Latest Actions to Enhance Integrity in America's Most Critical Nutrition Assistance Program
- USDA Unveils New Aggressive Tactics to Counter Fraud and Enhance SNAP Program Integrity
- USDA Proposes Additional Steps to Fight Fraud and Enhance SNAP Integrity
- USDA Announces Latest Actions to Combat Fraud and Enhance SNAP Program Integrity