Columbia, SC (WLTX) South Carolina is trying new ways to fight food stamp fraud, which last year cost taxpayers more than $2 million. Thursday, local, state, and federal law enforcement met in Columbia for a one-day training session on preventing, detecting, and prosecuting benefit fraud.
State Department of Social Services Benefit Integrity Coordinator Dana Outlaw says, "By networking, we can find out things from the different groups that could be helpful to each other in knowing what's going on and how things are reported to different groups, because some things get reported to law enforcement that we might not be aware of."
One of the most common forms of fraud is for people who get food stamps, which are debit cards now instead of actual stamps, to sell the cards for cash, often getting 50 cents on the dollar. The merchant buying the card has doubled his money, and the person selling it now has cash instead of a card that can be used only for certain foods.
People advertise on Twitter, Facebook and on Craigslist that they're willing to buy or sell food stamps, so DSS now has dummy accounts on social media sites from which it gets leads on possible fraud.
In addition to the training conference, South Carolina is one of seven states partnering with the US Department of Agriculture in a new food stamp fraud prevention plan. The pilot project will use technology-based consultation services to spot possible fraud. The project is expected to be completed by September 2015.
The 700 food stamp fraud cases last year in the state are still just a small fraction of the 855,000 people who rely on the benefits for food.