Sometimes advertising openly on the internet, an increasing number of food stamp recipients have been stealing millions of tax dollars by illegally selling their benefit cards for cash and then asking the government to replace their "lost" cards.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - federal overseers of food stamps - says that really needs to stop, and has proposed a federal regulation giving the states more power to investigate cases of repeated requests for replacement benefit cards.
Also See: How to Apply for Food Stamps
Under the USDA's proposed new federal regulation, the states would be allowed to demand formal explanations from people who ask for more than three replacement food stamp cards over any twelve-month period. People who refuse to explain why they need so many new foods stamp cards may not get any more of them... ever.
According to USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon, food stamp recipients who sell their benefit cards for profit are guilty of a form of fraud known as "trafficking."
"There are many legitimate reasons for replacing cards and the vast majority of recipients follow the rules," Concannon said in a press release. "But we are concerned that a few bad actors are using replacement cards to exchange SNAP benefits for cash, commonly referred to as trafficking."
SNAP, by the way, stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the official name of the food stamp program. While overseen by the federal government, the SNAP program is administered by the individual states.
People - "bad actors" -- found guilty of food stamp trafficking may not only be banned from receiving future food stamp benefits, but may also face fines and jail time.
The USDA's proposed regulation would require the states to ensure that persons who may tend to legitimately lose multiple food stamp cards, such as the disabled and homeless people, or the elderly, are not falsely accused of committing fraud.
"We are committed to meeting the highest standards of accountability when it comes to protecting taxpayer dollars and enhancing the integrity of SNAP," Concannon said. "Americans continue to support helping struggling families put food on the table but they want to know that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely."
Photo: Electronic Food Stamp Card - Getty Images