INDIANAPOLIS – 600,000 people in Indiana rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to feed their families. Over a hundred have had their benefits stolen over the last few months with no reimbursement.
"Everybody that is receiving snap benefits should know about this,” Bonita Edwards, a SNAP recipient who had her benefits stolen from her EBT card said.
Edwards is single mom of two. She works full time, but needs the benefits she gets from SNAP to feed her family.
"I get mine at the beginning of the month and it happened the same exact day that they were loaded on to my card," Edwards said. "So I went to Kroger earlier that morning and then I went to Walmart on 56th street, the neighborhood Walmart, and that's the last store I went to before anything happened."
Edwards filed a complaint with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. She is hoping to eventually be reimbursed.
Edwards isn’t the only person in Indianapolis that had their benefits stolen.
Rhonda Cook's benefits were stolen at the end of April. She used her card at Save A Lot. When she went to use it again over 800 dollars was spent.
“Monday, I contacted the Division of Family and Children and told them what happened,” Cook said. “ I told them I didn't use that. That was my balance. The lady took some more information and looked it up to see where it was spent and it was spent in Houston, Texas. Oh, wow. So I'm like, Well, I've never been there a day in my life. Then she said, okay, did you share your pin number with anybody? I said No. Why would I do that?”
She filed a police report with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. We reached out to see if they were investigating and they gave the following response:
The complainant reported to IMPD that this incident occurred in Texas so we would not investigate this incident. Given these relate to federal and state funding, we will defer questions about those programs (including the crime prevention) to the other agencies.
According to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, the benefits are being stolen through card scammers or duplicators often found at stores across the country.
This is a growing problem, according to cyber-security expert Sagar Samtani.
"It's very common and very significant issue actually that has been increasing over the last five to 10 years in particular and a lot credit cards are being skimmed and swiped quite extensively,” Samtani the Director of the Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at Indiana University said.
Emily Weikert-Bryant is the Executive Director for Feeding Indiana’s Hungry. They advocate for those who are food insecure. She says there is only one piece of advice they have for snap recipients at this time.
"If you change your PIN number you are less likely to have your benefits skimmed in a situation like that,” Weikert-Bryant said. “It’s not a fail-safe, it's not the perfect solution, but it's the best advice that everyone has at the moment."
The federal government is working to address this national issue. Last year, a law was passed to protect and replace snap benefits that were stolen.
Indiana has submitted their plan for reimbursement. However, it will be a while before recipients can expect their benefits to be reimbursed.
"USDA is sorting through them to make sure what they are proposing is workable and a good solution,” Weikert-Bryant said. “So as of yet they don't know when they would expect those benefits would come out but they will have to wait to get that approval from USDA."
If you have had your SNAP benefits stolen, it's important to report it.
Anyone who has had benefits stolen from them between the dates of October 1, 2022 and September 30, 2024 will likely qualify for reimbursement. For more information click here.