Local families hit by SNAP benefit theft

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For 518,800 residents in New Mexico, federal SNAP benefits help ensure they make ends meet.

Now, the state Human Services Department is hearing from households that fell victim to a recent wave of card skimming.

That includes a couple – Dan and Jan as they wished to be identified – who have five kids. SNAP helps keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, Dan and Jan say.

“Whatever we had budgeted toward food, you know, we can budget toward the house,” Dan said.

Like other households, their monthly SNAP benefits grew during COVID. During the three-year emergency, Dan and Jan’s benefits grew from “around $200-300 a month” to “around $900-1000 a month.”

While headed to a funeral in Arizona last Wednesday, the family stopped at a grocery store.

That’s when they learned around $12,717 had been drained from their card.

“We put our card in and the lady said that there wasn’t enough money. There was only maybe 30 or 40 cents left,” Dan explained.

Their claim is one of 241 the state Human Services Department has received since July 14. That’s around 10 claims a day.

On July 14, departments warned a skimmer found at Smith’s in Los Lunas put 488 SNAP households at risk of fraud. This week, they reported a skimmer found at a market in the South Valley.

Dan and Jan, though, do grocery pickup at the Walmart on Unser in Rio Rancho.

“We have card information that’s saved to the phone on the Walmart app,” Dan explained.

Eventually, HSD caught up in their caseload and reached out to them with a detailed list of purchases. Among them:

  • $8,000 at Sam’s Club in Santa Fe
  • $1,000 at Target

“I did reach out to the Sam’s Club in Santa Fe,” Jan said, “and the manager said that I had to have a police report. He wouldn’t even give me the information.”

According to Jan, they reached out to Santa Fe police and left a message with an officer. However, she says that the officer hasn’t called her back.

Target was different.

“They [the workers] couldn’t find it [the transaction] in the store, and then they gave me the corporate number, and they couldn’t find it either,” Jan explained.

Now, they wait.

“There’s a possibility to get some of that back, but it sounds like we might not get all of it back,” Dan said, explaining what he heard from HSD.

The department doesn’t have an estimate yet on how much money has been defrauded. However, if you suspect your card is compromised, check your balance and reach out to HSD immediately.