On Fox News’ one-hour “Boomtown 2: The Business of Food Stamps” special Friday, Government Accountability Institute (GAI) president Peter Schweizer asked viewers on “Hannity” to type in the hashtag #EBT on Twitter to see how easy it was to engage in food stamp fraud.
On Twitter and other social media sites like Facebook, those with EBT cards that are meant for food often trade the cards for cash.
As Schweizer, who appeared on the special with Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon, described, someone may take $150 in cash in exchange for a $250 EBT card.
While nearly 220,000 stores take EBT cards, only 100 federal employees have been tasked to monitor fraud. In addition, the USDA only monitors less than 10% of all food stamp vendors.
As a result, there is no way to measure the amount of fraud in the $75 billion-a-year food stamp industry. Government bureaucrats have said in their defense that only 1% of the food stamps program is subject to fraud.
“It’s very easy to do because it is a card that is interchangeable,” Schweizer said, noting the government does not want to even implement photo ID on the cards so as not to stigmatize the EBT card recipients.
In GAI’s investigation, undercover EBT card users were able to trade their cards for cash at stores. They used the cards to buy cigarettes, beer, and condoms, and store clerks easily recorded those purchases as “food” purchases.
The fraud is not limited to stores in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. An investigation in Florida found two out of every three stores engaged in EBT fraud. Minnesota ranks fourth in EBT fraud and Wisconsin has many reports of EBT cards being stolen.
Yet despite this evidence of rampant fraud, Schweizer argued there is no incentive to combat the fraudulent use of taxpayer dollars because those involved in the food stamps program do not want to destroy the profitable black market.