NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – William Hassell went to a local Walmart over the weekend; that’s where the single father of eight uses his SNAP benefits.
However, he said he went back to check the balance of his account Monday and was shocked to learn hundreds of dollars had been drained from the account.
“I [was] like, ‘scam’? Where, who, what….you know, and I’m like, in Walmart? I’m breaking down, because I’m losing it. Like, what am I going to do,” he said, adding that nearly $800 was stolen and there are few resources to turn to for help.
“I don’t have that extra support. I can’t call my mom. I can’t call my sister. We don’t come from money; [they] took from a hard working blue collar worker.”
Hassell’s account was caught up in an increasingly common card skimming scam that’s targeting low income families who use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) customers all across the country.
According to Oklahoma Human Services scammers are targeting not only SNAP customers, but any customer using an associated credit, debit, or EBT card on a card-reading device that has been tampered with.
State officials believe more than one hundred Oklahoma SNAP users have been affected.
William said he contacted his local police department and Oklahoma Human Services immediately for help, but it seems unlikely he’ll get that money back.
Few states will reimburse for stolen SNAP benefits But Oklahoma is not one of them, and a statement to KFOR Monday notes the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) prohibits replacing stolen SNAP benefits using federal funds.
William said Oklahoma Human Services was able to trace the bad purchases to an address in Brooklyn, New York.
“Why would I buy groceries in New York? I’m in Norman, Oklahoma. I dang sure didn’t use the card,” he said.
Less than two weeks before Christmas William’s mind is on the season but not necessarily on the gifts.
He’s worried about putting food on the table until his SNAP benefits refill in January.
“As a father, I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure they have everything they have,” he said.
“But at the end of the day, it hurts.”
Oklahoma Human Services encourages the following actions to prevent card skimming and protect SNAP EBT benefits:
- All SNAP customers should change their PIN immediately by calling 1-888-328-6551 or visiting connectebt.com.
- The agency expects a high call volume due to this issue. If you can’t get through by phone to change your PIN, please try again a little later or use the web option.
- SNAP customers should always:
- Keep their SNAP EBT PIN secret. Do not share your PIN with anyone outside your household. Cover the keypad when you enter your PIN on a machine.
- Check their SNAP EBT account regularly for unauthorized charges. If you notice any unauthorized charges, change your PIN immediately to stop the thief from making any new purchases.
- Check card reading machines (Point-of-Sale devices) to make sure there is nothing suspicious overlaid or attached to the card reader or keypad. If an individual notices any signs that a skimmer may be in use, they should alert the retailer and refrain from using the possibly compromised machines.
- To learn more about skimming, visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) skimming website.