TRENTON – The Department of Human Services today (July 3) announced it has received federal approval to replace food and cash assistance benefits stolen through electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card skimming schemes, which are on the rise nationwide. Households that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and the General Assistance (GA) program can now request reimbursement for benefits that have been stolen on or after October 1, 2022.
“Participating households rely on these benefits to put food on the table and provide for themselves and their families. This fraudulent activity puts an unfair and unnecessary burden on households trying to make ends meet. As we work alongside the entire Murphy Administration to make life more affordable for New Jerseyans, we are glad we can now provide a recourse for individuals and families who have been victims of skimming. We look forward to continuing to work with our federal partners on more ways to enhance security and protect people’s benefits,” said Commissioner Sarah Adelman.
The U.S. Congress passed a law in late December 2022 to replace SNAP benefits stolen via card skimming, card cloning, and other similar methods, in response to increased reports of benefit theft. The law allows states to use federal funds to replace benefits stolen electronically between October 1, 2022 and September 30, 2024. Prior to this law, states had no authority to replace benefits that had been stolen from a SNAP household.
New Jersey then received approval in late May from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to replace stolen benefits. In addition, the recently signed FY2024 state budget extended the same protection to the public assistance programs TANF and GA, which utilize the same EBT system.
“We realize how devastating it can be to learn that the benefits you depend on for food and other basic necessities are suddenly gone. We encourage anyone who has had their benefits stolen to report the theft and submit a claim as soon as they notice their benefits are missing. Reports can be completed online, by phone, or in-person at the local County Board of Social Services,” said Deputy Commissioner of Social Services Elisa Neira.
SNAP, TANF and GA households that are victims of this type of fraud can seek replacement benefits by submitting a Request for Replacement form. The form can be completed and submitted online at www.NJSNAP.gov or mailed to their County Board of Social Services. Cardholders also can complete their form over the phone or in-person at their County Board or Social Services. Households who submit a claim will have to attest that their benefits were stolen by skimming, scamming or other similar electronic theft.
The state may reimburse lost benefits going back to October 1, 2022. Cardholders who had their EBT card benefits stolen before July 1, 2023 will have 60 days – until August 30, 2023 – to submit a request for reimbursement. Cardholders whose benefits are stolen after July 1, 2023 will have 30 days from the date that they discovered the theft to submit a request. Households that previously reported stolen benefits to the board of social services will also be notified that they have 60 days to submit a claim. Households will be notified by their County Board of Social Services by mail once a determination is made. For a list of the County Boards of Social Services, visit www.NJSNAP.gov.
Program participants can request replacement of stolen benefits up to twice per federal fiscal year, which runs from October 1st through September 30th. Replacement benefits cannot exceed the actual amount stolen or the household’s benefit allotment amount for the two months immediately preceding the theft, whichever is lesser.
The Department urges cardholders take the following steps to protect their benefits and personal information:
· Do not share your PIN and cover the keypad when you enter your PIN on a machine.
· Check card reading machines to make sure there’s nothing suspicious overlaid or attached to the card swiper or keypad.
· Check your EBT account regularly for unauthorized charges. If you notice any unauthorized charges, change your PIN immediately to stop the thief from making any more purchases.
· Do not give your card to anyone outside of your household.
Cardholders can reset their PIN online at www.NJFamiliesFirst.com, on the ConnectEBT mobile app or by calling 1-800-997-3333.
Households should know there is no fee to complete a SNAP/TANF/GA benefit application, and that the state will never text a person to say their card is locked or to call a number to apply or recertify. Households should also be aware of text messages that ask for the person’s EBT card number or PIN, or from someone pretending to be a “SNAP consultant” saying that they are pre-approved for benefits or that an application was initiated on their behalf. The state or county agencies also will never send any messages asking for that type of information. Please avoid responding to these types of messages.
“We urge individuals and families to continue to be proactive and take the necessary steps to protect their benefits when they are out shopping. If you are unsure about the authenticity of any communication you receive concerning your food or cash assistance benefits, you can contact your local County Board of Social Services to verify,” said Assistant Commissioner Natasha Johnson, who oversees the Department’s Division of Family Development.
For more information about how to protect your benefits, visit www.NJSNAP.gov