LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and co-authored by Chair Janice Hahn to protect residents from illegal EBT card skimming.
“Skimming” involves the use of illegal electronic devices called “skimmers” that are secretly installed on top of card readers at retail stores, gas stations, and bank ATMs. When a Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) customer unknowingly swipes their benefits card – known commonly as Electronic Benefits Transfer card, or EBT card, on one of these devices, their information and PIN are stolen and used to create duplicate cards, which are then used by unauthorized users to withdraw the DPSS customer’s benefits.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the need for benefits such as CalWORKs, General Relief, and CalFresh grow,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “But, unfortunately, our safety net is being compromised through the illegal practice of skimming. This is unacceptable. Stealing from our most vulnerable and the lengthy timelines and barriers for benefits to be restored leaves our residents on the verge of homelessness or deeper poverty. Real solutions are needed to curb this illegal activity, and this motion will protect those who rely on our programs.”
In 2022, in Los Angeles County, over $19 million in stolen benefits, consisting mostly of CalWORKs and General Relief cash grants – were replaced for thousands of DPSS customers. Across California, the amount of stolen benefits replaced is nearing $50 million. However, the process for benefit restoration is full of barriers. In fact, it can take over a month, sometimes longer, for benefits to be restored for an individual who is scammed.
“We can’t lose sight of the real victims here. Our most vulnerable communities who really depend on these public benefits to keep their families fed and healthy are losing out,” said Chair Janice Hahn. “We’re going to enlist the help of local businesses, cashiers, and the public to protect our residents and ensure their benefits don’t fall into the hands of these criminals.”
The motion approved today directs the Department of Public Social Services to work with the federal and state government to advance immediate action to address the concern, including allowing “chip technology” so that residents can tap their EBT cards instead of swiping and removing the requirement for a police report.
The motion also mobilizes the Departments of Public Social Services, Consumer and Business Affairs, and Economic Opportunity to implement a multilingual, outreach campaign to local businesses, business associations and residents to ensure they are aware of this egregious trend and how to address the concern.
To read the full motion, click here.
If anyone has information to share about those committing this illegal activity, please call 800-222-TIPS.