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Stack and Scutari Legislation Would Help Victims of Stolen Welfare Benefits and Mitigate Future Fraud

TRENTON – Senator Brian Stack and Senate President Nick Scutari have introduced legislation to address recent fraud against certain recipients of state and federal benefits and to protect recipients from scams in the future.

This month, Hudson County officials confirmed to The Jersey Journal that benefits were stolen from more than 240 welfare recipients by scammers using “skimming” devices placed over credit card readers at stores.

Due to the uptick in theft, some welfare recipients have reportedly waited days to have their benefits restored.

“Bad actors are taking advantage of some of our most vulnerable citizens and stealing the benefits they rely on for everyday essentials,” said Senator Stack (D-Hudson). “By making benefit recipients aware of the increase in thefts and providing a fraud claims process, we can ensure individuals are better protected against harm and have the means to regain benefits if they fall victim to a scam.”

The bill, S-2873, directs the commissioners of Human Services and Health to provide information to recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Work First New Jersey Program (WFNJ), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) regarding card skimming and cloning. This information would be provided during enrollment or recertification in a benefits program.

Under the bill, a claims process would also be established for victims of welfare theft. After submitting a claim, a recipient’s stolen program benefits could be replaced by either federal or state funds.

The Commissioners of Human Services and Health would also coordinate with vendors to implement precautions that make electronic benefits transfer cards less vulnerable to theft, like including an embedded microchip in all cards.

“The rash of thefts of these benefits is disturbing. No one should have to go hungry because they are a victim of a scam,” said Senator Scutari (D-Union/Somerset). “Creating a fraud claims process will restore benefits to recipients promptly and allow the state to closely track ongoing scams so they can take swift action to prevent it from happening again.”