NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York City has set up a website and system to reimburse thousands of dollars to victims who had their SNAP benefits stolen via skimming.
Dozens of families in the Rockaways first told PIX11 News about the skimming that affected EBT accounts just before the holidays in 2022. Many of the families had gone to the grocery store with their EBT card that held their SNAP benefits, only to find out their money was gone.
Now months later, federal money has been made available. New York City is helping with the claims process.
PIX11’s Monica Morales on Monday delivered the good news to 50-year-old Lakisha Martinez who has been waiting eight months for help. Martinez can finally file to get her money back after $900 was stolen from her EBT card.
Martinez is not alone. City officials estimated the total number of skimming victims in New York City is approximately 22,000.
New York State Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson, of Far Rockaway, Queens, said his office received dozens of calls just like Martinez’s — a troubling spike in benefit fraud.
Card skimming is when someone secretly installs a device on a card reader to steal private information so they can drain money from an account.
SNAP Deputy Director Augusto Escalante said an online portal is now up and running for thousands of New Yorkers to file their claims. As a result of new federal and state legislation, New York City residents who have had their SNAP and/or Cash Assistance benefits stolen through skimming will be able to submit a claim for replacement benefits. Escalante said once a claim is filed, it should take 30 days to resolve.
These stolen benefits are a lifeline for low-income New Yorkers like Martinez. She says it was a devastating loss for her family on a fixed budget. Martinez hopes telling her story will help others.
The New York City Department of Social Services urged people who have similar issues with their benefits to reach out immediately.
A spokesperson for the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance said:
With the replacement process now in place, New Yorkers who have had their SNAP or public assistance benefits stolen electronically now have an avenue to recoup some of their losses. All EBT card holders, however, should remain vigilant about these scams and take several basic precautions to protect themselves, including carefully inspecting point-of-sale devices, changing their PIN regularly, and reviewing transaction history frequently.OTDA Spokesperson
If you think your card has been skimmed and your benefits are being stolen, immediately call the Human Resources Administration Fraud Unit at (718) 557-1399. The HRA also outlined the following tips to avoid skimming.
If you have a story, reach out to Monica Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org.