February 21, 2024
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Releases New Tool to Protect Low-Income New Yorkers From Losing EBT Benefits to Scams or Skimming

Governor Hochul Releases New Tool to Protect Low-Income New Yorkers From Losing EBT Benefits to Scams or Skimming

New EBT Card Lock Feature Helps Secure Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards and Restricts Unauthorized Purchases

Benefit Recipients Need to Remain Vigilant and Take Steps to Protect Themselves from Scam-Related Theft

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a new tool for New Yorkers who receive government assistance via an Electronic Benefit Transfer card to protect themselves from criminals who use "skimming" devices to steal benefits. Beginning today, February 21, a new EBT lock/unlock tool on the ConnectEBT app will enable card users to easily lock their EBT cards when not in use to protect their benefits from scammers.

“Low-income New Yorkers shopping for food and other essential items for their families should never have to find out at the checkout that their benefits have been stolen by scammers,” Governor Hochul said. “We will continue to take action to protect New Yorkers from scam-related theft and ensure that EBT cardholders have effective tools to protect their benefits.”

Across New York State and nationwide, thieves are using card skimmers, covertly placed over card reading machines at legitimate retailers, to copy EBT card and personal identification number information from EBT users. Scammers use the stolen card data to drain funds from victims’ EBT accounts.

The new lock/unlock EBT card feature helps prevent skimming theft by enabling EBT cardholders to quickly and easily lock their card through the ConnectEBT app after making a purchase. Locking the EBT card blocks all purchases, balance inquiries, and transactions on the card.

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Acting Commissioner Barbara C. Guinn said, “The unconscionable practice of skimming benefits from households’ EBT cards robs individuals and families with children of vital benefits they need to purchase food and other basic necessities. We are grateful for Governor Hochul’s support of these determined efforts to increase awareness of skimming and provide vulnerable New Yorkers with essential tools to protect themselves from benefit theft. We encourage all EBT cardholders to use the new lock/unlock feature to help prevent their benefits from being stolen.”

The new lock/unlock card feature is the latest step in Governor Hochul’s continued work to protect EBT card users from scammers. To raise awareness about skimming, Governor Hochul in December signed legislation that requires stores accepting EBT cards to warn customers of skimming and how they can protect themselves from the practice. The Governor worked with New York’s Congressional delegation and the Legislature to secure federal and State funding for partial reimbursements to theft victims. OTDA, which oversees SNAP and Public Assistance in New York State, began accepting applications for replacement benefits in August. More than $20 million in stolen benefits has been reimbursed through the end of December.

When shopping, consumers should inspect the card reading machine for an overlay device that may hide parts of the machine or anything unusual like glue marks, damaged or loose parts. If anyone suspects something is wrong with the machine, they should not use their card, notify a store manager, and contact the local police.

Additionally, EBT card users should:

  • Protect their benefits by shielding the PIN pad when entering their PIN.
  • Change their PIN frequently and do not share it. It is best to change the PIN immediately after each transaction.
  • Lock their card immediately after use.
  • Check their EBT account regularly for unauthorized charges.
  • If a transaction is unexpectedly declined or a user receives an error code, contact the EBT Customer Services Helpline to verify the transactions on the account.

To learn more about scams targeted at Electronic Benefit Transfer cardholders, how to protect benefits, and how to have stolen benefits replaced, click here.

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474 - 8418
New York City: (212) 681 - 4640


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