FNS is working closely with our state and federal partners, SNAP retailers, EBT processors, and other industry experts to protect SNAP benefits and combat SNAP fraud. Fraud will not be tolerated in FNS programs. SNAP benefit theft victimizes low-income people who rely on these benefits to feed their families.
Replacing Stolen SNAP Benefits
In late December 2022, Congress passed a law to protect and replace SNAP benefits stolen via card skimming, card cloning, and other similar methods. The law requires states to replace such benefits that were stolen between Oct. 1, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2024. States can now use federal funds to provide these replacements following the procedures in their approved state plan. Replacement benefits cannot exceed the actual amount stolen or the household’s benefit allotment amount for the two months immediately preceding the theft, whichever is lesser.
- December 2022: Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, which allows state agencies to use federal funds to replace these stolen SNAP benefits.
- January 2023: FNS issued guidance for states on developing a state plan and replacing these stolen benefits.
- February 2023: By law, state agencies were required to submit their state plan to FNS by Feb. 27, 2023.
- March 2023: FNS began reviewing and approving state plans for implementation. We compiled a list of approved state plans and estimated implementation dates. State plans will remain in effect until new FNS regulations on benefit replacements, issued under this new authority, take effect.
- October 2023: FNS completed approval of all state plans for implementation and published a dashboard that displays state-reported data on stolen benefit claims and replacements in accordance with federal guidance. The dashboard will be refreshed quarterly as new data are received.
Tips and Resources
Questions and Answers
- How are SNAP benefits “skimmed”?
Thieves place an illegal device on an ATM or a retailer’s card-swiping machine to copy EBT card information. This is called card skimming. Criminals can then use the information to make fake EBT cards. This is called card cloning. Thieves use the fake cards to purchase food and beverages from SNAP-authorized stores using stolen SNAP benefits.
Card skimming can also happen to people using a magnetic stripe to make purchases with a credit or debit card.
- What is FNS doing to stop card skimming and protect SNAP recipients?
Many state agencies are pursuing enhanced card security options to protect SNAP recipients from card skimming schemes, as outlined in FNS’s guidance. State agencies have also initiated outreach campaigns to educate SNAP recipients on ways they can protect themselves. FNS continues to work with stakeholders, including states, EBT processors and law enforcement to explore various strategies for addressing benefit theft.
- Is FNS working with law enforcement to hold criminals accountable?
The FNS Office of Retailer Operations and Compliance, Special Investigations Unit has responded to numerous complaints of cloned and skimmed SNAP EBT cards throughout the country. FNS supports federal law enforcement by identifying suspicious EBT transactions and sharing locations where thieves are attempting to use cloned cards in real time. This helps law enforcement catch criminals before they leave the area. FNS also conducts outreach with state and local partners to increase awareness of current SNAP fraud trends and to assist states with limited resources.
- Where is benefit theft happening and how often?
Although we are aware of reports of benefit theft in some states, USDA does not have comprehensive data on the number of incidents for each state. As a result of the law passed in December 2022, states are required to collect data on the scope and frequency of card skimming and report regularly to FNS. This will help states, FNS and Congress better understand the magnitude of card skimming going forward.
- Are any states using SNAP EBT cards with a chip?
No states currently issue SNAP EBT cards with a chip, though some are in the planning stages. FNS continues to explore ways to improve security for SNAP EBT card payments. Additionally, FNS will soon test mobile contactless payments in SNAP, which may help prevent card skimming. See the request for volunteers and March 2023 press release for more information.
- Do stores that participate in SNAP have a separate point-of-sale terminal to accept EBT cards?
No. SNAP EBT payments are generally integrated with other payment systems and use the same POS machine that is used for credit or debit card payments.