GRANITE CITY, Ill. – Illinois state officials are warning of a new scam that could affect your family. It comes after a Granite City woman said she went to pay for her groceries with her government benefits, only to find out a thief had drained her account. And she’s not alone.

Leeann Abbott and her two children, Rylee, 6, and Ronnie, 2, rely on SNAP benefits. Abbott is a single-working mom. But when she tried to use her electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card Monday at a nearby grocery store, she was told she didn’t have enough money in her account. Abbott receives $750 per month to spend on groceries for her young family.

Abbott said the money was supposed to go into the account by midnight Monday. She said she immediately filed a fraud report with the Illinois Department of Human Services. They told her it would be 10 to 15 days before she’d be reimbursed and printed her a record of her EBT card transactions. Those transactions showed the card was used in California and drained within minutes of the funds going into the account.

“By 12:16, all of my benefits were gone,” Abbott said. “My last transaction was at a Target in California. And immediately, it was a red flag. I said, I’ve never been out of town, out of state, to use this.

The Illinois Department of Human Services tells FOX 2 that they’ve found several cases of skimming devices recently. They advise people to change their PINs every month. They said they can also freeze their card online after they use it to ensure no one else can claim their benefits.

Abbott said she talked to several other recipients at the DHS office that also had their benefits stolen. She has a message for whoever drained her account.

“I hope that they get the help that they need to where they don’t have to do this, because obviously, they’re struggling too, if they have to steal from somebody,” Abbott said. “I just don’t want this to happen to other parents and other moms.”

The Illinois DHS has provided additional information here:

IDHS Reminds Customers to Always Protect Their Benefits 

IDHS will never call or text you to ask for your personal information, Link card number or PIN. Only use the number on the back of your Link card 1-800-678-LINK (5465), Illinois Link Card Website (ebtEDGE.com) or the ebtEDGE app to access your Link account. 

Protect your benefits by changing your PIN monthly or freezing your card on Illinois Link Card Website (ebtEDGE.com) 

Here is more information on where SNAP customers can report fraud:  

Claims can be submitted by calling 1-800-843-6154, online at www.dhs.state.il.us, or in person/by mail with a paper form at any local Family Community Resource Center (FCRC).  

  
Claim Processing: 

  1. IDHS processes claims within 10 calendar days of receipt.  
  2. Staff review claims for a signature and the EBT account to ensure transactions reported on the claim occurred. If everything is correct, they will process the claim. If there is a discrepancy or missing items, staff will attempt to contact the customer who submitted the claim.  
  3. Processing the claim is simple. Staff enter information into the system and once they certify the results, a notice of decision (approval or denial) is issued to the customer.   
  4. If approved, the issuance is created once it has been certified. The issuance is available on their regular Link account on our regular issuance schedule. This is the calendar day following the next workday from authorization. (Usually, 2 days, but a Friday authorization is Tuesday and holidays are also a factor).  

Additional information:  

  1. Electronic thefts of SNAP benefits that occurred 10/1/2022 or after are eligible to file a claim for replacement.  
  2. PEBT benefits and Cash Benefits cannot be replaced at this time.  

Claims must be filed timely:  

  1. Theft that occurred between 10/1/2022 and 7/2/2023 must file a claim by 7/3/2024.  
  2. Theft that occurred on or after 7/3/2023 must be filed within 30 days of when the theft is discovered.   

There are maximums on what can be replaced:  

  1. No more than 2x the monthly benefit received just prior to the theft. 
  2. No more than two incidents were replaced per Federal Fiscal year.  
  3. Theft must have been either through skimming or phishing (i.e., that the physical link card and PIN were not stolen). It is still the customer’s responsibility to report their card as lost/stolen immediately, when it is physically stolen.