OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The state’s Department of Human Services says since Dec. 8, hundreds of Oklahomans have been impacted by a card skimming scam that’s targeting low income families who use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“There’s a whole lot, a whole lot.” Michael Adams, a special agent in charge of the investigation at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services Office of the Inspector General. “They’re wiping out every bit of the food stamps that are in there.”
According to Adams, victims have seen a combined loss of about $500,000.
Unfortunately, these scammers are putting many people in a tough position this holiday season.
“I had to make a choice, either food or presents,” said Barbara North, an OKC resident.
North told KFOR that on Monday night, she went shopping at Walmart to buy Christmas dinner for herself and her grandchildren, knowing she had $116 on her EBT card to spend.
However, when she checked out, she made a heart-sinking discovery.
“She slid my card and there was only $0.85 on there,” said North. “I called the DHS office this morning and they said I was a victim of food stamp fraud.”
KFOR talked with another OKC resident today who’s facing a similar situation. Charles Colbert told us he looked at his account on Tuesday and saw what should’ve been $280, wiped to 35 cents.
“That was my food for my Christmas,” said Colbert.
DHS says Colbert and North are just two of hundreds of Oklahomans who’ve been targeted in about the last week and a half. As we reported last week, some of the EBT funds seem to be going to several businesses in New York.
On Tuesday, Adams added that the “overwhelming majority” of the stolen money is being spent in New York.
Last week, DHS also said they traced the suspicious purchases to two Brooklyn addresses. KFOR tracked those addresses down and sent a photographer to those locations.
Here’s what we found:
The first location, Throop Farm Market, was closed. On the awning there’s an indication that EBT cards are accepted.
The second location, where the Brooklyn Meat Market has reportedly been accepting EBT purchases out of Oklahoma, didn’t seem to be a business at all. It looked more like a house, with a storefront. The gate was pulled down and there was a letter visible that said “imminently perilous to life.”
“I can’t go into details there on an ongoing investigation, but we can see every penny that is spent with Oklahoma food stamps,” said Adams. “So, we are aware of where it is being spent and we’re coordinating with the proper officials in New York for that.”
The Department of 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.