Spring family loses nearly $1,000 in food stamp benefits to alleged fraud

The Texas Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has received 108 reports of benefit card skimming so far this year.

SPRING, Texas – Crafty thieves have found a way to steal food stamp benefits from families who need them most.

A Spring man claims to be the latest target. He said he is not left struggling because only five days after his family’s benefits were replenished, he said their balance went from nearly $1,000 to just $10.

The man, who asked KPRC 2 not to use his name or show his face, said the problems swiping his benefits card, known as the Lone Star Card, started in late November at a Walmart off Riley Fuzzel Road.

“I had to end up typing the number in,” he said. “I didn’t think anything of it because I go to these Walmarts around here all the time.”

He returned to the same store on Dec. 4 ready to buy a cart full of groceries for his wife and three kids using the same card.

“It said declined because you only have $10. I was like, ‘That can’t be right,’” he said.

He called the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the state agency that regulates the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is when he found out 10 transactions totaling $933 went through on his card at stores in three Texas cities, he said all within 40 minutes of each other.

“I couldn’t do anything. I was just shocked. I was like, ‘That just made everything a thousand times harder on us,’” he said.

The HHSC Office of Inspector General has received 108 reports of benefit cards being skimmed across the state so far this year, according to a spokesperson. Last year, the agency received zero reports.

In September, the agency issued a fraud alert and urged clients to look for the following on card readers:

  • Evidence of loose pieces that have been glued or tapped in place
  • Places where a video camera may face the card reader or PIN pad of a register
  • Number keys that feel soft, spongy or covered in plastic

“You have families that are already struggling to eat now, so what are they going to do if they don’t have these benefits,” the Spring man asked.

The timing couldn’t be worse for his family of five.

“It’s Christmas time,” he said. “You’re taking food out of these children’s mouths,” the father added.

He reported the alleged fraud to the state and filed a police report, but he said it’s unlikely they’ll get any of the benefits back. They won’t replenish again until after Christmas, he said.

People who suspect problems with their Lone Star Card can cancel the card and get a new one by calling 800-777-7328. Scams can be reported at 800-436-6184 or ReportTexasFraud.com.

The Office of Inspector General says it’s working with the FBI to track the use of stolen benefits and identify suspects.

In August, the state agency received a federal grant of more than $400,000 to expand fraud prevention efforts for the SNAP program.

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