Maryland families have stolen $170,000 in SNAP and cash assistance in the past two months

BALTIMORE — The Maryland Department of Social Services has confirmed that more than $170,000 in federal aid was stolen from local families.

WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii covered the spike in stolen benefits. She asked the Department for the estimated loss in fraud cases reported between April 1 and June 8.

READ MORE: A run for the ATM: Families must beat thieves to get their own food and cash aid

A spokeswoman responded that approximately $68,000 in SNAP benefits and $105,000 in Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) benefits were stolen during this period.

Since January 1, 350 cases of fraud have been reported to the Department. During the same period last year, DHS received about 58 reports.

The department said it does not replace stolen benefits.

WMAR-2 News reported that federal regulations prohibit the state from replacing benefits with federal funds, however, the agency can help families with local and state funds. The DC Department of Social Services currently does.

RELATED: Families lose food and cash assistance to thieves; state says unable to replace benefits

When asked if Maryland DHS has taken steps to identify state or local funding sources to reimburse victims of fraud, a spokeswoman replied:

“DHS is constantly looking for opportunities to increase revenue streams to meet program needs. At this time, DHS has not been able to identify a source to reimburse victims of fraud from these federally funded cash assistance programs.

WMAR-2 News also asked the agency how it was working to make EBT cards more secure and whether it had been in communication with Conduent, the provider that supplies Independence cards, about the increase in fraud.

A spokeswoman for the agency replied:

“DHS is working with Conduent to implement enhanced security features such as PIN blocking and password functionality, as well as various account-level alerts. In addition to increased card security, our department is currently conducting an awareness and education campaign to educate Marylanders about secure card use. We shared information with our community partners and asked them to share this information on their networks. Additionally, we provide safety information on our various social media platforms.

Yes. DHS is in ongoing communication with our vendor partner, Conduent, regarding enhanced security features that can be added to Independence Cards and the electronic benefit transfer process.

DHS has also instructed its local offices to refer victims of fraud to other resources, however, victims report minimal assistance.

If you are a victim of this crime, we encourage you to apply for emergency financial assistance through the Consumer Portal or by visiting any of the 24 local Departments of Social Services and calling 1-800-332-6347 (TTY 1-800-735-2258).

Detailed information on the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Emergency Housing Assistance Program, as well as where to apply, is available on their website.

Contact your local elected officials. You can find their information by clicking here. Type your address under the “search” tab and you’ll have the option to email all lawmakers checked.

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