LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – Scammers are targeting Electronic Benefit Transfer cards by using fake devices at grocery stores to steal from low income families trying to put food on the table, and are doing so at an alarmingly increasing rate.

It’s something California officials have been catching criminals doing on camera recently, and the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services says the same tactics are impacting families in Nevada.

Last week, FOX5 talked with Anthony, a father of three who had the entire balance on his EBT card for the month of April drained, save for six dollars. His card was refilled early Wednesday morning, but for nine days, he had to worry about how he was going to feed his kids.

“Thankfully, family pulled through, so it wasn’t as horrible as I was expecting it to be,” Anthony said about the last week and a half. “But it was still a struggle. It was still bare minimum, and me and the wife were skipping meals.”

Anthony is one of an exponentially increasing number of victims of this kind of crime in Nevada as of late. In July 2023, the state gained approval from the federal government to start replacing stolen benefits, and since then, the state has averaged about 200 claims per month. In just the first ten days of April, though, there have been about 1,500 claims, with more still coming in.

“These thieves are actually placing a skimming device on the credit card machine at a retailer,” Marni Whalen, Deputy Administrator of the Nevada Division of Welfare & Supportive Services, told FOX5 Wednesday. “When somebody uses their EBT card there, their information is skimmed and then replicated somehow and made into another cloned card.”

Once that information is replicated, Whalen says the thieves can then use it to take the services meant for families in need, for themselves.

“They could produce an actual physical card or they could just be storing the information and processing it that way online,” she explained.

Whalen says the state has not identified the specific retailers where this is happening, but it’s part of an ongoing investigation. She added that most of the time, it takes 10 to 30 days for the state to replenish the cards that have been drained by criminals.

Anthony hopes everyone gets their card refilled in less time than that, like he did.

“It was like we just won something,” Anthony said of the moment he saw his card had been replenished. “Everybody jumped up and we ran to 7-11 and got some snacks and drinks.”

He hopes no other family has to suffer like his at the hands of welfare thieves.

“It was just really nice to be able to go shopping and not have to worry about what I’m feeding them for dinner tonight instead,” he said, fresh off a trip to the grocery store Wednesday evening. “My fridge is full, and even if I wanted to fit more in my freezer, I couldn’t at this point.”

Whalen says the team in charge of investigating these crimes needs more resources to address the issue and restore the lost benefits in a timely way. She adds these crimes tend to happen at the beginning of the month when people are expecting their benefits to come in.

Anyone who is impacted can find resources here.


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