Boston — Officials are warning the public as over $1.6 million in Massachusetts benefits have been stolen over the last 6 months.
This past summer, the Department of Transitional Assistance issued additional warnings to residents of skimming scams that have impacted some DTA clients. The agency and its investigations team became aware of banks and retailers who appear to have had their ATMs and card processing terminals compromised. These scams are aimed at obtaining credit, debit and Electronic Benefit Transfer card information and Personal Identification Numbers. Skimming is the use of an electronic device to steal card information from a card reader and create a fake card, known as cloning, to steal money or benefits.
As a precaution, DTA strongly recommends that clients change the PIN on their EBT cards at this time and before each scheduled benefit issuance date. Clients do not need to receive a new card to safely access their benefits. The Department has taken several preemptive steps to help protect clients’ benefits, including sending out multiple targeted text messages and creating a notice to inform clients and encourage them to re-PIN their card. The agency also created a webpage on Skimming and how to protect benefits.
Clients who receive TAFDC or EAEDC cash benefits can have their benefits sent to a checking or savings account through direct deposit. Residents can contact their case manager if they have a bank account and want to set up direct deposit.
There have also been reports of a phishing scam where individuals are receiving scam text messages that their Pandemic EBT benefits have been blocked. The message directs individuals to call a number where they are asked to provide their P-EBT card number. This message is not from DTA. DTA only sends text messages from 382-674 and would only direct clients to call the Assistance Line (877-382-2363) or EBT Customer Service Line (800-997-2555).
According to NBC News, more than $1.6 million in SNAP benefits was stolen from over 5,000 Massachusetts households from June to November. If Congress’ $1.7 trillion funding package passes, a provision would require all states to replace SNAP benefits stolen in October or later.
People should never provide their personal information or EBT/P-EBT card number over the phone to unidentified callers. If any DTA client believes they may have fallen victim to a skimming or phishing scam, they are encouraged to report it to DTA’s fraud hotline at 1-800-372-8399.