Food Stamp Fraud Moves to Social Media

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A recent rash of food stamp fraud doesn't tell the whole story about the largely successful government program. 

Social media: We use it to over share, post pictures of babies and cats, and now, to scam the government. 

In Pennsylvania, several people have been arrested for selling their food stamps on Facebook and Craigslist. FOX 29 reports that several of its viewers submitted Facebook posts in which people were advertising bundles of food stamps at a cut rate. Back in February a woman named Tanya Keenan-Mack was arrested for a post on her Facebook looking someone to buy her stamps for half price, but according to authorities, she traded her SNAP card for heroin. 

Similar ads have appeared on Craigslist, including one person selling $195 dollars worth of stamps for $95.

When beneficiaries of the SNAP program receive their card, they’re told that it’s illegal to sell or transfer it to another person. 

This is not a new problem: In 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture disqualified around 46,000 thousand people from food stamps for fraud. 

Still, SNAP is a necessary program for people who need assistance: As Time reports, the “$70 billion program provides essential food to just under 44 million low-income Americans.” The majority of the people who benefit from these programs are women and children. 

Although stories of food stamp fraud are shocking, these cases are much less common than panicked news reports might have you believe: More than likely, the people who are compelled to sell their benefits are outliers, who find themselves in desperate situatons. The federal government reached the same conclusion: A January 2017 report from the USDA found that there’s only a 1.5 percent rate of food stamp fraud today. 

In recent interview with the Washington Post, Craig Gunderson, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has spent 20 years studying the benefits program said that, “SNAP is just so successful at what it does. It sets out to alleviate hunger and it does.”

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