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Food stamp trafficking is obvious
by By Tim Kalich Greenwood Commonwealth
Feb 27, 2014 | 96 views | 0 0 comments | 98 98 recommendations | email to a friend | print
What's the purpose of a fraud unit that doesn't actually investigate what appears to be obvious fraud?

That's a good question for Mississippi's Department of Human Services, following a report in The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson about the hundreds of families that report losing their food stamp debit cards at least five times a year.

According to the newspaper, the Department of Human Services has tracked 324 such families in the 12 months ending Sept. 30. The only thing the agency did, though, was send the families a warning letter, including apparently to a recipient who reported losing the EBT card 20 times in a year.

The warning letters are not much of a deterrent, obviously, since the incidence of multiple lost cards has risen 23 percent since DHS began tracking the problem in 2012. Federal officials have warned that the repeated reissuance of the EBT cards is an indicator that the cards are possibly being sold.

The DHS numbers probably underestimate the full scope of the problem. Although 324 potential abusers out of more than 300,000 households is only a tiny fraction, the "lost" cards don't get on DHS' radar until it happens at least five times. The number of recipients asking for one to four new cards a year is unknown.

Now, it's possible that some of these cards are being honestly misplaced or accidently discarded. DHS says that some recipients don't realize that the electronic benefit cards are recharged monthly with their new allotment.

That misunderstanding, though, should only happen one time. After that, it looks highly suspicious. In the banking industry, according to The Clarion-Ledger's reporting, it is rare for a credit card or debit card to be lost. There's really no good explanation -- except fraud - for a food stamp card to be any different.

DHS needs to get off of its hands and start doing some investigating. It doesn't have to catch all of those who are cheating the food stamp system. They only have to catch a few and make a big splash about it, prosecuting them or at least disqualifying them from the program. That would be a much more effective deterrent than warning letters.
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