Agri View: SNAP Fraud

Dan Agri View, General

Everett Griner talks about SNAP fraud proving costly in today’s Agri View.

SNAP Fraud

From: USDA Food and Nutrition Service

What is SNAP Fraud?

SNAP fraud is when SNAP benefits are exchanged for cash. This is called trafficking and it is against the law.

SNAP fraud also happens when someone lies on their application to get benefits or to get more benefits than they are supposed to get.

SNAP fraud also happens when a retailer has been disqualified from the program for past abuse and lies on the application to get in the program again.

Let’s Look at the Facts about SNAP Fraud

fraudThe trafficking rate in SNAP has dropped dramatically. Due to increased oversight and improvements to program management by USDA, the trafficking rate has fallen significantly over the last two decades, from about 4 cents on the dollar in 1993 to about 1 cent in 2006-08 (most recent data available).

The federal government is aggressively fighting SNAP trafficking.

USDA and the Obama administration are actively working on behalf of American taxpayers to protect the federal investment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and make sure the program is targeted towards those families who need it the most. USDA aggressively acts to control trafficking by using SNAP purchase data to identify suspicious transaction patterns, conducting undercover investigations, and collaborating with other investigative agencies.

USDA uses the latest in available technology to track and control abuse of the SNAP.

SNAP electronic benefits transfer (EBT) has given USDA new tools to identify, track, and take action against trafficking. We use the electronic “audit trail” from EBT transactions to identify trafficking and other suspicious activity. The Anti-Fraud Locator using EBT Retailer Transactions (ALERT) system monitors electronic transaction activity and identifies suspicious stores for analysis and investigation.

USDA dedicates staff to investigating and prosecuting fraud

FNS has a dedicated team of over 100 analysts and investigators across the country dedicated to SNAP retailer compliance. They analyze retailer data, conduct undercover investigations, and process cases – including fines and administrative disqualifications – against violating retailers. FNS also works with State law enforcement authorities to provide them with SNAP benefits that are used in sting operations, supporting anti-trafficking actions at the local level.

The federal government takes action against those who misuse the program.

In FY 2012, over 100 analysts and investigators reviewed over 15,000 stores and conducted nearly 4,500 undercover investigations. Close to 1,400 stores were permanently disqualified for trafficking and nearly 700 stores were sanctioned for other violations such as the sale of ineligible items. FNS also works with State law enforcement authorities to provide them with SNAP benefits that are used in sting operations, supporting anti-trafficking actions at the local level. USDA’s Office of the Inspector General also conducts extensive criminal investigations – many resulting from FNS administrative oversight findings and referrals – to prosecute traffickers. In FY 2012, OIG SNAP investigations resulted in 342 convictions, including a number of multi-year prison terms for the most serious offenses, and approximately $57.7 million in monetary results. In FY 2012, OIG devoted more than 50 percent of its investigative resources to prevent SNAP fraud, waste and abuse.

Learn More About How USDA Fights Fraud

From: SNAP to

What are the rates of fraud and abuse in SNAP?

Since the program has been established, SNAP has frequently been a target for accusations of fraud and abuse of the system. SNAP beneficiaries are accused of cheating the system by receiving greater benefits than would befit their income status or exchanging SNAP benefits for cash. In reality, fraud within the SNAP system is extremely low. With the introduction of the EBT cards, most opportunities for fraud have been removed, and an electronic trail now exists to facilitate the tracing of abuses in the system.

According to a recent USDA analysis, SNAP reached a payment accuracy of 96.19% in 2012 (the highest that the program has ever seen). Trafficking rates—the number of benefits exchanged for cash—are at 1%. There is always room for improvement, but SNAP is currently functioning at the highest level of integrity the program has seen yet.