Riverside County, California – If you’re on CalFresh and think someone stole your food benefits electronically from October 1, 2022, to November 30, 2023, you might get back the benefits you lost.
This kind of theft happens when someone illegally takes money off your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. This can be done through skimming, cloning, or other scams. If your EBT card shows a zero balance or less money than before, even though you didn’t lose the card, your benefits might have been stolen.
You can still get these lost benefits back even if you were previously told no, only got part of them back, or never asked for them. This also applies to people who used to get CalFresh but don’t anymore, for thefts during the same period.
“We’re aware this is a growing problem that has impacted individuals and families’ ability to put healthy food on the table. We hope to reach everyone impacted to compensate them for their losses,” said Assistant Director Allison Gonzalez, who oversees the Self Sufficiency Division at the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS). “If you believe your food benefits were stolen, please report to us as soon as possible.”
Starting in early 2023, there’s been a rise in EBT theft in Riverside County. Between January and September, over $3 million in food and cash benefits were stolen from local residents.
Chief Shawn Ferris of the Special Investigations Unit at DPSS highlighted that EBT theft isn’t just a local problem, but a nationwide issue. He emphasized the importance of being proactive and raising awareness among customers and the general public about the extent of this problem and how to stay safe.
Over the last two years, a dedicated team at DPSS has found and removed over 200 illegal cameras installed at ATMs and sales terminals across the county. They also collaborate with other agencies to catch and investigate suspects involved in EBT theft.
Prevention tips include customers changing their EBT card PIN a few days before their benefits are loaded onto their cards. “Its important customers know that thieves are striking typically during the first few days of the month when benefits are loaded onto EBT cards,” added Chief Ferris. Additional prevention tips include securing your EBT card account number and PIN. Also, look for suspicious devices on point-of-sale machines at stores and at ATMs. Customers may also download the new ebtEDGE app, which allows users to access account information, change their PIN, and review/block out-of-state and online purchase.