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