Reporting food stamp fraud when you suspect someone is gaming the system is very important. While the program is designed to provide free nourishment, it is not truly free. As a taxpayer, your taxes are going to fund the program and therefore when people are using the program illegally, they are stealing from you and everyone else. Reporting food stamp fraud is your duty if you know of anyone that is not being ethical with the assistance they are getting from the government and taxpayers. Unfortunately, some people are known to commit food stamp fraud and it’s not just the recipient. Businesses have also been known to do the same. Find out how to report it, why you should, and the common ways people abuse the program.
How to Report Food Stamp Fraud
Luckily, there are several different ways you can alert the government to anyone that is abusing the different welfare and public assistance programs out there. In this list below are just a few of the ways you can alert the Health and Human Services department to the potential abuse and scams the program faces.
By Phone: You have more than one option if you would like to turn in someone that is abusing the system. Regardless of the area you live, you can call (800) 447-8477. If you would like to contact your local branch of the Health and Human Services department, rather than the inspector general, you can find them in the local phone book and give them a call.
By Fax: You will need to provide sufficient information, so proper follow up can be done. While you can remain anonymous, you might wish to include contact information, so they can contact you and find out all of the details. The national number for faxing complaints and reporting food stamp fraud is (800) 223-8164. Your local department will have fax capabilities as well.
By Email: Again, you will want to include as much information as you can when you report food stamp fraud online by email. Send them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and include contact information, if you choose.
In Person: Take a drive to the county courthouse, where most Human Services offices are located and alert them to the situations, so they can investigate and make sure it is all on the up and up.
Why You Should Report It
This kind of assistance provides free nourishment to people that cannot afford it. It is not free, however. Taxes are used to fund the programs and when they are abused your tax dollars are paying the bill for it at an even greater rate. In addition, when funds are limited, it could mean that tax dollars are cut from other needed areas. Since there is a limited amount of taxes collected, there is only so much to go around. If there are shortages, they are made up through cuts to all kinds of different things, including education, law enforcement, firefighting, and many other different areas. Keep your tax dollars working for you and go ahead and report any food stamp fraud you know is going on.
How People Commit Food Stamp Fraud
There are many ways that people abuse the system and take the help away from the kids and others that need it the most. There are limited funds for these programs and when someone is not using them right, it takes away from others that are doing it all the right way.
One of the most common ways people abuse this is to lie about income levels, number of occupants or dependents in the home, and through gaming other welfare programs. People do this to qualify for the free government assistance, even if they do not meet the income guidelines or criteria for participation. There are more ways the people commit fraud with food stamp assistance as well, including illegal transfer of benefits.
Many times, people will get the benefits of the program and sell the food to others, or give it to others. This could include taking cash in exchange for the cost of the groceries that are purchased. This takes away from the rest of the people that are using it the right way and from all of us that are paying the taxes to keep the assistance programs going. Selling food stamp benefits is not legal and should be reported if you know or have good reason to suspect it is happening.
One of the other ways a person can commit food stamp fraud is by using them to buy items that are not normally approved. This could include using the benefits to purchase alcohol. This generally takes either a naïve and untrained clerk at the store, or a business that is in on committing the fraud with people, which is not nearly as uncommon as you might think.
How Businesses Commit Food Stamp Fraud
Unfortunately, many businesses have been known to commit food stamp fraud. There are several different ways they do it. The first and most obvious way is to exchange them for cash. What often happens is the business will take the vouchers or card and redeem them for a value less than that stated. The owner of the card or stamps gets cash that is of less value. This is not even close to the only way it is done.
Another common way that businesses abuse food stamps is by allowing them to be turned in and used to buy items not normally covered by the program, like alcohol or tobacco products and hard goods. If you know of or suspect some business in your area is doing something like this, it is up to you to let the Department of Health and Human Services know, so they can do appropriate investigation into the matter.
Finally, some will allow the transfer of goods and the vouchers take place right in front of them, fully realizing the assistance is not being used as intended. Reporting food stamp fraud should be done to protect us all.