Food Stamps Fraud

Food stamp fraud is a serious offense, and those who commit it often face severe penalties such as temporary or permanent disqualification from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Additional penalties may include imprisonment, penalty fees, and the need to repay any fraudulent benefits. To avoid SNAP fraud, however, food stamp recipients and participating retailers must follow all program rules and regulations, and they must remember to notify their caseworker of any changes to their household income, as this could change their eligibility status.

Moreover, claimants may report food stamp fraud at any time if they have reason to believe that another participant is guilty of misusing the program. In most cases, claimants may report suspected fraud directly to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). To learn more about fraud and how to report it, review the sections below.

What is SNAP fraud?

Food stamp fraud is a serious offense that involves the misuse of SNAP benefits. For instance, SNAP beneficiaries may commit fraud if they participate in any of the following:

  • Providing false application information to increase their household’s chances of obtaining SNAP benefits
  • Exchanging SNAP benefits for cash

Moreover, retailers may commit fraud if they are disqualified from SNAP due to program misuse but lie on their application to increase their chances of requalifying in the future.

To reduce the risk of committing public assistance fraud, SNAP beneficiaries must only provide truthful information when completing their food stamp applications, and they may only use their food stamps to purchase eligible food items. Additionally, SNAP beneficiaries cannot sell their benefits for cash, as doing so is known as trafficking. When necessary, program participants must also remember to contact their caseworker to report any changes to their household income as soon as the changes take effect.

Note: To protect themselves from fraud, SNAP beneficiaries should not share their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card or PIN number with any other user.

What are the food stamp fraud penalties?

After a food stamp investigation, guilty participants will be responsible for paying costly fines and repaying any fraudulent benefits. Additionally, possible penalties may include imprisonment and disqualification from participating in the SNAP program. However, these penalties vary depending on the specific situation and whether participants are retailers or SNAP beneficiaries. If participants are SNAP beneficiaries, for instance, the consequences of committing fraud may include permanent disqualification from the program or temporary disqualification from anywhere between 12 and 24 months. Additional consequences may require participants to repay any benefit amount that was illegally obtained.

Related Article: Food Stamps Work Requirements

Other food stamp fraud cases pertain to stores and retailers that do not follow SNAP rules and regulations. For instance, retailers who lie or provide false information on their application may be subject to one or more of the following:

  • Temporary or permanent ineligibility for their participation in the SNAP program
  • A $10,000 fine
  • Up to five years of imprisonment

How to Report Food Stamp Fraud

There are several ways to report SNAP fraud if claimants believe that a retailer or beneficiary is misusing the program. For instance, claimants may report the fraud directly to their state if they believe that a SNAP beneficiary has provided fraudulent application information or is misusing their food stamps. Each state has its own food stamp fraud hotline that may be used to report the misuse of SNAP benefits. To obtain these state-specific telephone numbers, as well as contact information for the District of Columbia and U.S. territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, refer to the following chart.

 

State Hotline State Hotline State Hotline
AL 334-242-1700 LA 888-524-3578 OK 800-784-5887;

405-522-5880

AK 907-269-1050 ME 866-348-1129 OR 888-372-8301
AZ 800-251-2436;

855-777-8590

MD 800-332-6347 PA 800-932-0582
AR 800-422-6641;

501-682-8849

MA 800-372-8399;

866-950-3663

PR 311 (within territory);

1-787-877-0101 (outside)

CA 800-344-8477 MI 800-222-8558 RI 401-574-8175;

401-574-8221

CO 877-934-6361 MN 800-627-9977 SC 800-616-1309
CT 800-842-2155 MS 800-299-6905 SD 605-773-3653;

800-765-7867

DE 800-847-3333;

800-273-9500

MO 877-770-8055 TN 800-241-2629
FL 866-762-2237 MT 800-201-6308 TX 800-436-6184;

512-973-9203

GA 877-423-4746 NE 402-471-9375;

402-595-3789

UT 800-955-2210
GU 671-735-7353;

671-735-7344

NV 702-486-1646;

702-486-1875

VT 800-479-6151
HI 808-587-8444 NH 603-271-9258 VI 340-715-6973;

340-774-2399

ID 800-926-2588;

866-635-7515

NJ 800-792-9773 VA 800-552-3431
IL 800-453-7283;

800-843-6154

NM 800-228-4802;

505-827-8141

WA 800-562-6906;

888-436-6392

IN 800-403-0864 NY 518-402-0125 DC 800-521-1639;

202-673-4464;

202-724-8477

IA 800-831-1394;

877-347-5678

NC 866-719-0141 WV 307-777-5352;

304-558-1970

KS 800-432-3913;

888-369-4777

ND 800-472-2622 WI 877-865-3432;

800-362-3002

KY 800-372-2970 OH 866-635-3748 WY 307-777-3526

 

Moreover, claimants may report public assistance fraud through the federal Office of Inspector General (OIG) if they prefer. To learn more about reporting food stamp fraud through the OIG, review the following reporting methods.

By Telephone

To report potential fraud by telephone, claimants may contact the OIG at any of the following numbers:

  • 202-690-1622
  • 800-424-9121
  • 202-690-1202 (for those who are deaf or hard of hearing)

Online

To report SNAP fraud online, claimants may use the electronic OIG Hotline to submit a confidential, anonymous or named request. When submitting the request, applicants generally need to provide the first and last name of the person who is suspected of committing fraud, the participant’s city and state of residence and a reason for the request. For instance, applicants may provide a description of the violation, the date on which the incident occurred, or any other pertinent information that can be used to support the claim.

By Mail

To report nutrition assistance fraud by mail, claimants may submit a written request to the following address:

United States Department of Agriculture

Office of Inspector General

PO Box 23399

Washington, DC 20026-3399

When reporting nutrition assistance fraud, what information should I provide?

To begin a food stamp investigation after a user is suspected of committing fraud, claimants generally need to provide as much information as possible about the SNAP beneficiary or retailer in question. For instance, claimants must provide the full name, address and birth date of the person who is suspected of committing fraud. Additionally, applicants must include a description of the fraudulent activity, the date on which the incident last took place, and whether the activity is an ongoing offense.

If a retailer commits food stamp fraud, however, claimants must provide the name of the store, the specific location in which the suspicious activity took place, and the name of the city and town.

Related Article: Tips for Using Food Stamps Wisely

It might also interest you: