International gangs using skimmer devices to steal SNAP EBT codes, cash in Florida

Losses could hit $600 million in Florida this year

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Secret Service is warning Florida SNAP recipients to be aware that the devices you use to swipe your EBT debit cards could be designed to steal the funds in your account.

Agents told News 6 traveling gangs are placing skimmers on point-of-sale terminals inside supermarkets and convenience stores frequented by SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Funds, recipients.

Senior Special Agent Roger Fuentes said anywhere from $500 to $10,000 per SNAP debit card is being stolen every month.

“It’s huge right now,” Fuentes told News 6.

Haywood Talcove, CEO of Lexis Nexus Risk Solutions, an information and fraud analytics company, said new data suggests Florida will lose close to $600 million to SNAP thieves this year.

Talcove is convinced stepped up security software could stop the skimmer thieves.

“That money was stolen, it belongs to people who are food insecure,” he told News 6. “If the USDA would literally spend $80 million, they could shut this down.”

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Talcove said his data is based on police reports in Florida and across the country.

“Keep in mind, the USDA spent $157 billion last year on the SNAP program, 1/20th of 1% on enforcement,” he said.

The Secret Service said the end game is to use SNAP to purchase and resell “high demand items,” like energy drinks, baby formula, diapers and cosmetics.

“You have limited controls over the retailers and the Point of Service terminals,” Talcove said. “So the same groups — the Romanians, Chinese, Russians, and the Nigerians that attacked our unemployment insurance system — are hitting the SNAP program at scale across the country.”

According to the USDA, victims of skimming devices in every state have a good chance of getting their money back.

Congress passed a law in late 2022 to help SNAP participants who are victims of card skimming, cloning and other similar methods. The law allows for the replacement of benefits stolen through these methods in limited circumstances.

By law, the state plans were due on Feb. 27, 2023.

Florida’s plan was approved by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service on May 25 with the plan estimated to go into effect on Aug. 24.

If you discover your SNAP account has been hacked, email or contact your local SNAP office.

You can report SNAP fraud here.

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About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.