USDA warns of thieves stealing SNAP benefits through card skimming

The federal agriculture department is warning retailers and SNAP participants about thieves stealing SNAP benefits by using card skimming devices.

Thieves place a device on a retailer’s card-swiping machine to copy EBT card information. Card skimming can happen to anyone that uses a credit, debit or EBT card, including SNAP participants.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages SNAP participants to take actions that may help prevent card skimming. For example:

• Keep your PIN secret. Do not share your PIN with anyone outside your household. Cover the keypad when you enter your PIN on a machine.

• Check your EBT account regularly for unauthorized charges. If you notice any, change your PIN immediately to stop the thief from making any new purchases.

• Check card reading machines to make sure there’s nothing suspicious overlayed or attached to the card swiper or keypad. The overlays can be difficult to detect but are often bigger than the original machine and may hide parts of the machine.

• If you believe you are the victim of card skimming and SNAP benefits were stolen from your EBT card, contact your local SNAP office.

The agency also encourages retailers to take several steps to ensure terminals have not been targeted by thieves, including:

• Inspect POS machines /PIN pads regularly (at least daily) to look for tampering.
Pull up on the top of the machine and pick the machine up multiple times every day to check for loose parts that don’t belong to the POS machine/PIN pad.

• Put a sticker or other mark on your POS machines/PIN pads. If the sticker is damaged or you cannot see the mark, there might be a card skimmer covering it.

• Do not place anything near your POS terminal/PIN pad. Criminals can hide tiny cameras in almost anything that is placed on your counter like charity boxes or boxes used to hold leaflets.

The FBI offers these tips when using an ATM or point-of-sale (POS) terminal:

• Inspect ATMs, POS terminals, and other card readers before using. Look for anything loose, crooked, damaged, or scratched. Don’t use any card reader if you notice anything unusual.

• Pull at the edges of the keypad before entering your PIN. Then, cover the keypad when you enter your PIN to prevent cameras from recording your entry.

• Use ATMs in a well-lit, indoor location, which are less vulnerable targets.

• Be alert for skimming devices in tourist areas, which are popular targets.

• Use debit and credit cards with chip technology. In the U.S., there are fewer devices that steal chip data versus magnetic strip data.

• Avoid using your debit card when you have linked accounts. Use a credit card instead.

• Contact your financial institution if the ATM doesn’t return your card after you end or cancel a transaction.