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WASHINGTON -- Several retailers participating in the food stamp program have recently been targeted by a string of EBT (electronic benefit transfer) scams, according to an advisory recently sent out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).
Two types of scams have surfaced in recent months, specifically in New York City and Alabama, the notice said.
In the first scam, which has hit at least 27 stores, someone identifying him- or herself as an EBT vendor, FNS official, or other third-party representative calls the store saying he or she needs to test the EBT machine, or it will be shut down. The person asks the manager to enter a card number and PIN to process a credit transaction, often more than once. However, what appears to be a test is actually a real transfer, in which the money is transferred out of the retailer's account and into a recipient's EBT food stamp account. In another version of this scam, the retailer is told that it is due a credit, and if the retailer processes a key-entered credit transaction using the card number and PIN the caller is providing, the retailer's account will be credited.
In another scam, retailers that use government-issued EBT machines are being contacted by someone claiming to represent an EBT vendor. They are told that the store needs to purchase a new magnetic stripe card to update their EBT system, and that the cost will range between $139 and $169. The caller says the new card is necessary for the state to read the transactions.
Retailers who have been targeted by either of these scams are being asked to contact their local FNS field office. Additionally, retailers are reminded to always contact their local FNS field office before making requests related to their EBT machines.