Senate Democrat calls for increased SNAP card security amid skimming uptick

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
Greg Nash
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 to discuss the House Republican’s proposed budget plan.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is calling on federal officials to beef up the security on cards that low-income families use to buy groceries as they increasingly become victims of theft.

Wyden urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase federal security of the cards that families use to access their benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as the use of “skimming” devices to target recipients is seen in worrying numbers.

“Criminals have been using a security weakness in benefit cards to literally steal food from families in need,” Wyden said in an interview with NBC. “This is a textbook case of government failure to help people who need it most.”

The credit card industry has deployed the use of microchips and contactless payment options to defend against the skimming traps that steal card information. The problem, Wyden says, is that no state issues SNAP cards with those enhanced security features — just the traditional magnetic strip.

The USDA does not keep a state-by-state record of theft claims for the SNAP program, according to NBC, but some states, such as Maryland, saw benefit theft soar to up to $1 million, according to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.)

The federal government has issued guidance to state governments on additional security measures that they should consider taking with SNAP cards, including encouraging frequent PIN changes and the ability to freeze or lock cards.

The omnibus bill passed at the end of last year attempted to address concerns that many recipients that had been stolen from were not being refunded their benefits. The law requires that states submit plans for reimbursement of the funds to access the federal money appropriated for such refunds. But it only provides that protection for funds that were stolen during a certain period of time.

“The government can do a lot better here,” Wyden said. “It is slap-your-forehead obvious that SNAP users should get the same protections from fraud that banks give to their customers.”

The USDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tags Dutch Ruppersberger Ron Wyden Ron Wyden snap benefits

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video