HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- We have a warning to the 3.4 million Texans who get SNAP benefits each month: Scammers are trying hard to steal those benefits.
"We're scared. We're so scared that that would happen to us again," Jackie Trares, who was a recent victim of SNAP benefit theft, said.
Trares is a single mother of two living with her parents. Things are tough right now in her family, so SNAP benefits are helping keep everyone fed.
But, when she tried using those benefits in November, she got an ugly surprise.
"Went to the store, it was declined. Immediately called the number, it said my balance was zero. I thought that was crazy, we just got benefits," Trares said.
The mother accessed her account online and learned someone used her SNAP card number and four-digit pin number at a store in Fort Worth, draining every penny on the card.
Trares said the state investigated the fraud, but that did not fix the problem.
"Basically told me that my benefits would not be replaced because the theft wasn't due to their error," she said.
It turns out she's not alone when it comes to having SNAP benefits stolen, according to Haywood Talcove, the CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions' Government Group.
"What's happening right now, in Texas and all across the country, is skimmers and phishing attacks are being targeted at SNAP recipients," Talcove said.
He adds that SNAP recipients should never give their card numbers to people who call on the phone, and they should only shop in larger stores due to the potential for fraud from credit card skimmers.
"The person that is hurt the most is the individual that needs to feed their children. It's the individual who doesn't have money to get food," Talcove said.
He said that upgrading SNAP cards to include a chip reader like standard credit cards could cut down on fraud. It's actually something the federal government is considering in 2023.
Talcove also urged recipients to change their pin number immediately after getting their card. That's a step Trares now takes every single time she uses her card.
"Somebody needs to be responsible. Somebody needs to be telling people, 'Hey, this could happen to you so easily.' I still physically had my card. Somebody got my number and my pin and wiped me out," she said.
We asked the state to take a second look at Trares' missing benefits, but so far they have not been replaced.
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