California Introduces App to Prevent EBT Theft

The California Department of Social Services has introduced a new tool to tackle Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card theft to protect vulnerable individuals relying on state benefits for essential needs. 

The ebtEDGE mobile app and web portal, launched recently, provide EBT cardholders with features to enhance the security of their advantages. Larry Peters, a father of four, exemplifies the importance of EBT benefits for many families. 

However, he has experienced the heartache of having his benefits stolen three times, necessitating financial struggles and borrowing. Peter’s story is not unique, as the state reports that thieves have stolen over $86 million from CalFresh and CalWORK recipients in the past two years.

The ebtEDGE app allows cardholders to freeze their cards when not in use, block online and out-of-state transactions, change their PIN number, and request a replacement card. 

These features are crucial in light of the rising instances of EBT theft, which has left many individuals, like Peters, in dire straits.

Despite counties having two weeks to reimburse theft victims, the emotional and financial toll on affected individuals is substantial. A recent incident saw a long line outside the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, where people waited to report missing benefits.

Nina, who works for a school district and experienced an $880 theft from her EBT account, emphasized the need for caution in card usage. She expressed her selective approach in using the card, highlighting concerns about the system’s vulnerability.

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California Launches ebtEDGE App to Combat EBT Card Theft

The California Department of Social Services acknowledges the ongoing issue and is actively working on solutions. The ebtEDGE app and web portal represent a proactive step toward empowering beneficiaries with tools to safeguard their benefits. 

However, skepticism remains, as some individuals, like Nina, fear the potential compromise of monitored systems. Data from the Department of Social Services reveals that the state reimbursed victims of EBT theft more than $86 million from July 2021 to March 2023, with monthly theft trends rising. 

The department collaborates with law enforcement at various levels to mitigate theft by blocking suspicious transactions, identifying perpetrators, and locating skimming devices. Arrests have already been made, and multiple investigations are underway.

Looking ahead, the department plans to enhance EBT card security by introducing chip technology, scheduled to launch next summer. The move aims to add an extra layer of protection against theft, as current EBT cards only feature a magnetic stripe.

The 2023 Budget Act allocates $50 million to support this technological upgrade.

As part of its comprehensive approach, the department has also released a 5-minute video guiding individuals on how to avoid skimmers and other EBT card fraud. 

By combining technological advancements with educational resources, California strives to fortify the security of its EBT program, ensuring that beneficiaries can access their benefits without fear of theft or fraud.

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