Food Stamp Fraud: Double dip scams

CREATED Jul. 7, 2011

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Having trouble feeding your family? Apply for food stamps! That's the message coming from the state officials pushing the program. 100,000 people in Lee County have already done just that. But with so many people getting help at the check-out from Uncle Sam, how can we be sure your tax dollars are being put to good use? As Four In Your Corner's Colleen Hogan found out, there are plenty of loopholes and not enough oversight in the food stamp program.

A family of four making 44,000 a year can get almost $700 a month toward the cost of groceries, even more if you have more kids. That's a lot of taxpayer money. While it's no surprise that some people abuse the system, I've uncovered a new way scammers are trying to double dip, on your dime.

Mom Susan Mcarthur spends plenty of time in the Walmart store on Skyline Blvd in Cape Coral.

"I'm here everyday getting something," Mcarthur said.

Some days her shopping trips take longer than others, depending on how much she's harassed by people trying to get her to buy their food stamp debit cards for cash.

"It bothers me because the card is there to help families, and his situation was helping my family, please buy the card," Mcarthur said.

Once, a guy even followed Susan and her daughter around the store! Grabbing her arm and pleading with her to give him cash for his card. Susan didn't, knowing it was illegal and doubting there was even money on there.

"I know he's probably trying to get cash for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, whatever the case may be," Mcarthur said.

She thinks more needs to be done to crack down on fraud. Both at the Walmart store where she shops and from our government which doles out the benefits that you pay for!

So first, I went to the store where Susan shops to see what they're doing to protect customers from these scammers. But no one there would talk to me. So I called the corporate office for comment. But I had to leave a message to ask my questions.

Since no one called me back, I called again. Still no response. In all, I called three times over the course of a week. But I didn't stop there. I asked a spokesperson for the food stamp program what he thought about people trying to sell their debit cards that you pay for.

"When that person uses a card in a fraudulent way, number one, it wastes all our money, myself included; I'm a taxpayer as well."

So once more I got on the phone. This time calling the USDA. They're the ones who are supposed to be cracking down on fraud. I asked them, in a voicemail and an email, what they're doing now that Four In Your Corners brought this "cash for card" scheme to their attention. A spokesperson agreed to a phone interview, then blew me off. I called back two more times after that, and no response.

Regardless, our Cape Coral mom still thinks laws should be changed, to make sure your money's going to the people who need it.

"It bothers me because there are legitimate people out there that need to feed their family who are out of work from all walks of life right now," Mcarthur said.

Just because Walmart and the USDA didn't get back to me by the deadline of this story, that doesn't mean I'm giving up on this. I will keep on this, because after all, it's your taxpayer dollars.

COLLEEN HOGAN
CHOGAN@FOX4NOW.COM