Scammers target food stamp recipients

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, those enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are receiving more money every month to buy food. As a result, scammers are targeting people who receive food stamps.

At 69, Jackie is disabled. She draws a small check from social security and receives SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps.

On Aug. 1, she called what she thought was the benefits assistance center curious about the money in her account.

“A lady came on and said congratulations, you have won a Life Alert pendant.”

Jackie

Jackie said nothing is really free so she asked how much is the monthly fee for the Life Alert Detection System.

“She put me through to another lady, and this lady said congratulations you have won a $100 gift card.

But the only thing she says you have to do is grab your credit card and it’s going to cost $1.95. I told her, ‘I’m sorry to tell you, I don’t even have $1.95 in my account.’ “

Jackie

Denise West is the SNAP Coordinator for the East Tennessee Human Resource Agency. She says SNAP recipients like Jackie have received a substantial increase in benefits in response to the pandemic.

“So, it’s always important to remember when you are dialing the Consumer Assistance Center, the EBT Assistance Center always make sure you are dialing the correct number because one digit could make a difference in getting the right office or a scammer.”

Denise West

When Jackie was told she had won the life alert pendant and money, that’s something you will only hear from a con artist, not from the government.

“The Department of Human Services, the EBT Assistance Center will never try to sell or recommend any type of service for sale to you. So, if you end up with someone telling you, you have won a prize or that you need to purchase something, it’s important to hang up and report it to DHS.”

Denise West

Jackie says when she was asked for personal information, she hung up knowing it was a scam.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it is honey,” she said.

For those who get SNAP benefits, it’s important that any communication received from the Department of Human Services about benefits will likely be by mail.

You will never be asked for personal information.

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