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Maryland families robbed of $170k in SNAP and cash assistance in last two months

Maryland families robbed of $170k in SNAP and cash assistance in last two months
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BALTIMORE — The Maryland Department of Human Services confirmed more than $170,000 in federal assistance was reported stolen from local families.

WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii has 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 race to the ATM: Families having to beat thieves to their own food and cash assistance

A spokeswoman replied that approximately $68,000 in SNAP benefits and $105,000 in Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) benefits were reported stolen in that timeframe.

Since January 1, there have been 350 fraud cases reported to the Department. During the same time last year, DHS received around 58 reports.

The Department has said it’s not replacing stolen benefits.

WMAR-2 News reported that federal regulations prohibit the state from replacing benefits with federal funds, however, the agency can assist families with local and state funds. The DC Department of Human Services is currently doing this.

RELATED: Families are losing food and cash assistance to thieves; state says it’s 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 consistently seeks opportunities to increase revenue sources to address program needs. At this time, DHS has been unable to identify a source to reimburse fraud victims of these federally funded cash assistance programs.”

WMAR-2 News also asked the agency how it’s working to make EBT cards more secure and if it’s been in communication with Conduent, the vendor that supplies Independence cards, about the increase in fraud.

An agency spokeswoman responded:

“DHS is working with Conduent to implement enhanced security functions such as PIN blocking and password functionality, and various account-level alerts. In addition to increased card security, our Department is currently conducting an outreach and educational campaign to increase Marylanders’ awareness of secure card usage. We have shared information with our community partners and requested they share that information throughout their networks. In addition, we provide safety information on our various social media platforms.

Yes. DHS is in ongoing communication with our vendor partner, Conduent, about enhanced security features that can be added to Independence Cards and the Electronic Benefits Transfer Process.”

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

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

Detailed information on the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Emergency Rental Assistance program, as well as where to apply, can be found on their website.

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

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