A D.C. woman says she doesn’t know how she’ll put food on the table after someone allegedly stole the money off her EBT card. Denae Carr, who’s the mom of a toddler, still has the card in her possession and believes someone must have used a card skimmer to get the information.

When Carr went to use her EBT card last Friday, she was shocked to learn the money had been drained. She checked her app and saw someone had withdrawn $360 while she was asleep, she said.

“I was really dependent on that. I have a 2-year-old that needs to eat, that needs clothes, everything,” she said. “So I was really dependent on it.”

The last place she had used the card was at a Giant grocery store in Northeast D.C.’s Brentwood neighborhood the night before. She believes someone placed a skimming device on the card reader.

“Skimming is a methodology where a small device, known as a skimmer, is installed on legitimate card readers, such as ATMs,” D.C.’s Department of Human Services (DHS) explains. “The skimmer is often designed to blend in with the legitimate reader to capture the data from the card. Cloning involves transferring the stolen data onto a blank card with magnetic strip, creating a replica of the original card.”

Carr filed a report with the D.C. DHS, but they told her it would take 12-30 business days to investigate, she told News4.

As for getting food in the meantime … “They said food banks; that’s about it,” Carr said. “And there’s nothing else they can do for me … It’s just really stressful. So now I have to call family members and stuff to just borrow $20 here and there.”

Giant told News4 that it hasn’t received any reports related to the issue but that it takes all inquiries seriously and will look into it.

Stolen EBT funds have been an ongoing issue throughout the country for years. Last year, federal officials in Los Angeles charged a team of people with using cloned cards to steal a total of $38 million. And surveillance video from Worcester, Massachusetts, showed a suspect appearing to place a skimming device on a reader.

“I think one of the critical aspects in why this fraud is so particularly deplorable, is how it targets vulnerable people, low income individuals who need this money to survive,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said.

The D.C. DHS told News4 that District residents, along with other people across the country, began having trouble with EBT benefits being skimmed from their cards starting in fiscal year 2022. They said it’s been happening every month.

In 2022, Congress passed a law requiring states to replace stolen Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

If a D.C. resident loses SNAP or Cash Assistance funds on their EBT card due to card skimming, cloning or similar fraud, the D.C. Department of Human Services may replace those benefits, in “up to two instances per household,” they told News4.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Virginia will refund the money within 2-10 business days. In Maryland, it’s three days. But in D.C., it’s 12 days.

Carr says that’s not fast enough.

“They need to take it more seriously,” she said. “And honestly, they should do a reimbursement for people that’s going through it, just in times like this, because sometimes people don’t have family or friends to depend on or look out for.”

The USDA has some safety tips for protecting yourself when using an EBT card, but these also apply to any type of card. They recommend changing your PIN often, covering the keypad when you’re entering your PIN, and checking your account regularly for unauthorized charges.

D.C.’s DHS sent us a statement saying in part: “We recognize that waiting for benefits to be replaced is a hardship for families and that is why we urge customers to protect their cards. While they are waiting, we do try to connect them, with food resources in the community, but this criminal activity does have devastating impacts on families.”

When someone reports their EBT card has been skimmed, the D.C. DHS says that an office within their department “conducts an administrative review to determine if the customer is eligible or denied reimbursement based on their claim.” If that person feels the decision was inaccurate, they can ask for a hearing within 90 days of the notice.

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