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Former Assistant District Attorney
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney

Is fraud a problem with SNAP?

by | Feb 11, 2020 | Federal Crimes

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has been in use since the 1930s. It started as a way to help low income families devastated by the economic downturn in the country due to the Great Depression. Since then, the program has gained many opponents who feel there is an issue with fraud that is costing taxpayers a lot of money. 

According to Time, long held arguments from those wanting to cut benefits say the food stamp program is full of people claiming benefits using false information or selling the benefits. They claim many people commit fraud to try to get a higher benefit amount or to get benefits when they are not eligible. Others who support the program say fraud is not as big of an issue as opponents say. 

During the programs early years, there were certainly fraud issues. Retailers would mischarge customers or people selling their food stamps. As the program grew so did the fraud activity. However, the government cracked down and starting uncovering the illegal aspects of the program and putting an end to them. By the 1980s, though, fraud was still an issue and public opinion of the program was at an all-time low. 

Reform of the program helped to change eligibility for the program and increased the amount of oversight by fraud investigators. Technology also helped to decrease fraud. Today, SNAP benefits come on a card that is similar to a credit card. It makes it harder to sell or trade them. It also prevents counterfeiting. The changes in the program have helped to reduce fraud over time, making the fraud rate today the lowest in history.