AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A family in Aurora is warning others about having card information stolen without you even knowing.
The family says they may have been the victims of a card skimmer, a device on card machines that steals your information when you swipe during a typical transaction.
The target was their food stamps, a necessity for this family. Each month, they get an allotment, and that accounts for their food budget that month.
You can imagine their shock when it should have been renewed and their balance was zero.
“We can’t prevent completely. We just live in a world where this is happening more and more, but we can try to protect ourselves,” the mother said.
That’s the warning from the Aurora mother, who asked not to be identified.
Her family receives SNAP benefits. Earlier this month they bought groceries, leaving a balance for the rest of September.
‘How could this happen?’
“I tried to go back on Sunday, to get food for the Labor Day barbecue and it was rejected,” the mother said.
She went to her phone to check what was left on her SNAP account.
“Right in front of my face, I saw it loading so you can check your balance, and it went to zero,” she said.
She was left baffled — she had only used the card once this month and her account had just been issued new funds.
“I’ve had the card and I’ve been home all day, ever since Friday, so how could this happen?” the mother said.
What happened, she believes: Someone got her account information from a card skimmer. She even had the transactions to prove it.
“I think I’m mostly just mad and frustrated,” the mother said. “How could this happen when the card’s on me? But what if it happened to someone, this is all they have — and that breaks my heart.”
How to prevent SNAP card theft
She took matters into her own hands, finding out how to prevent this from happening again.
“Download the ‘Providers’ app for the food stamps,” she said. “Change your PIN right before you’re going to get your food stamp balance, big amount. Changing your PIN frequently.”
All of these tips were also provided by the Colorado Department of Human Services.
You have 30 days from the incident to report fraud to your county’s food stamp office, and they determine if and when they’ll send new funds.
That might not be soon enough for this family, which relies on those funds to stock their pantry.
“A week or two at the most, and that’s just basic cooking, going back to simple, and I have a daughter that has celiac, so gluten-free. I have kids that have special needs, so they have feeding issues, so it’s just hard,” the mother said.
Another tip provided by the Colorado Department of Human Services: When you’re checking out at the grocery store, give the card machine a tug. Skimmers aren’t secured very well, so most of them will fall right off if you tap on the machine.