Pa. finds 650 people fraudulently tapping into state benefits

    Pennsylvania has nabbed more than 650 people suspected of fraudulently using state-issued debit cards that give them access to certain public welfare benefits.

    Pennsylvanians who qualify for food stamps, cash assistance or Medicaid can access those benefits with the swipe of a card.

    But during the months of November, December and January, any swipes outside of the commonwealth and its adjacent states were being very closely watched.

    Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman Carey Miller says the probe found people illegally accessing benefits even though they weren’t living in the state.

    “They might have been residents of Pennsylvania and, in some cases, they might have moved out of state and just never canceled their (electronic benefit transaction) card,” she said. “But these were people who were living out of state.”

    She says the analysis included only cards used in states that do not share a border with Pennsylvania.

    “The red flags that we were using would be something that would be repeatedly use out of state, rather than used in state then maybe if they’d traveled out of state for a day and then came back into state and then used it again,” she said.

    Miller says 76 percent of the people committing fraud were using the food assistance program.

    The cards have long been the subject of concern by some at the state Capitol.

    Last fall, the state auditor general called on the department to tighten oversight of its electronic benefit transaction cards.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.