She needed groceries. But someone wiped her EBT card clean: 'It has to stop'

Posted at 4:48 PM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-05 23:09:33-05

PETERSBURG, Va. -- A Petersburg woman suffered a scare while shopping at a store near Halifax Street this week when she discovered her Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), with a balance of $230 on it, was wiped clean.

"I go up to the counter and just like every other debit card, I swipe the card. And I swipe the card and it said, 'Declined.' And I was thinking to myself, I haven't used the card. And I called the number on the back of the card, and it said, 'Your balance is zero,'" said the victim, who asked to remain anonymous.

She's shaken, since this is the second time it's happened in two months, saying she believes a scammer stole all of her EBT funds.

"Not again, not again. But yes, they did it again. And I mean, it has to stop," she said.

In early December, the first time it happened, she went to Petersburg's Social Services location to get help. She said she had to file paperwork that showed this:

"It showed every store I went in, it was the name, whether it was Food Lion or Publix, but when it got down to the hackers, it was blank. There was no location at all."

Per the Virginia State Department of Social Services, the funds cannot be reimbursed and all that can be done is file paperwork and a police report.

The victim told the CBS 6 Problem Solvers she followed the instructions and was expecting a follow-up phone call from either police or Social Services. She received neither, and one month later, found herself in the same situation again.

"I really felt so bad, I almost felt as if I had done something wrong, and I was coming there for help, and I didn't get any help, nor did I get the follow-up," the victim explained, noting that she's always kept her card secure and keeps a routine check on her balance.

A representative at the Petersburg Social Services location said they've seen an uptick in similar cases since October 2022. The CBS 6 Problem Solvers reached out to Petersburg Police, who said they were working on gathering more information about how many police reports have been filed for similar cases.

In December, VADSS shared this warning, saying this is happening nationwide through something called "skimming," where a scammer may attach a card-reading device to a point-of-sale machine, collecting card numbers and other information.

VADSS encourages EBT cardholders to never respond to unsolicited texts, emails, or phone calls concerning an EBT account, to change the card's PIN number often and to routinely check the balance of your EBT card to ensure no unauthorized purchases have been made.

The victim said she's grateful she had friends and family to provide financial support for her when she was hit by scammers both times, she hopes her story will notify others of what could happen to them.

"I just pray, I just say, 'Lord, please, don't let no one have to go through what I went through.'"

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