CalFresh recipients say EBT and cards are hacked by scammers – NBC Los Angeles

Some CalFresh recipients contacted the I-Team saying their electronic benefit transfer, or EBT, cards had been hacked by scammers. The state uses these cards to distribute cash to low-income residents, which they can use to buy food. But now, after being hacked, some recipients are left penniless. The I-Team has studied the seriousness of the problem and what you can do to protect your money.

It was at the grocery store checkout that Sean Ostriker learned that something was wrong with his CalFresh EBT card.

“It was refused. He said I had no funds there,” he said.

Ostriker then checked the card balance and said $280 was missing. He filed a complaint with the California Department of Social Services, or CDSS, which operates the program. In the meantime, the CDSS issued Ostriker a new card. And he said money was stolen from that one too, this time $330.

Ostriker said both times the stolen funds were used at a convenience store 3,000 miles from Brooklyn. Other CalFresh recipients have complained online about the same thing.

“It sucks that the state is supposed to provide these benefits to the people who need them, and instead it goes to crooks with no end in sight,” Ostriker said.

It turns out that the cards are easy for scammers to hack and duplicate because they contain old technology – a magnetic stripe – instead of the harder-to-hack “chip” technology.

CDSS admits this is a problem. It returned a year’s worth of data after the I-Team requested it. We learned that recipients of CalFresh and CalWorks, another state-funded EBT program, reported that scammers stole nearly $24 million from their cards. The CDSS said the fraudsters either skimmed the cards or tricked the recipients into sharing their card details through fake text messages or calls.

“Obviously from now on our cards are skimmed incredibly easily. Our advantages are really vulnerable and we have no protection,” Ostriker said.

The I-Team asked to interview the director of CDSS, but a spokesperson said they couldn’t accommodate us. Instead, the spokesperson said in an email that the CDSS was exploring new protection tools to mitigate and prevent theft, such as allowing recipients to access benefits via their cell phone instead of a mobile phone. physical card.

The CDSS also said stolen benefits are generally refunded to recipients within 10 days, although it may take longer.

In fact, Ostriker waited several weeks. He said the CDSS eventually refunded most, but not all, of his money.

“Fortunately, I am in a position where my family can help me,” he said.

Here are some tips to protect your EBT money:

  • When using your card at store checkouts, play around with the terminal to make sure the scammers haven’t placed a skimming device on top. They are often fragile and you should be able to spot it.
  • Never respond to text messages or calls about your EBT card, even those that say your card has been locked. They are probably scammers trying to steal your money.

Watch this video for more tips.

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