Food stamp fraud in Tucson hurts those who need it

One Tucson mom discovered food stamps sold online in her neighborhood.

TUCSON, Ariz. - While her three children enjoyed fall break from school last week, Tiffany found something online she did not enjoy.

"Scrolling through my Facebook. They're on there daily," she said.

Tiffany, who didn't want her last name used for privacy reasons, is talking about online posts offering food stamps for sale. We saw several on Facebook and Craigslist Tucson. Food stamps come in the form of an Electronics Benefit Transfer card (EBT) and are not transferable. Selling them is a federal offense, a felony if the value is $100 or more.

"It makes me angry -- they're abusing the system. You see it anywhere you go," Tiffany said.

An estimated $975 million in taxpayers dollars are lost annually to what's called "SNAP trafficking."

SNAP stands for "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program." The fraud hurts people who really need the help. Tiffany said she receives $219 a month for her family of five. Her husband is unemployed and job hunting, and her 12-year-old son has an immune deficiency.

"If I could work, I'd be out there providing for my family," Tiffany said. "But with my son's illness, it makes it hard for me to work."

Using our private email and posing as a potential buyer, we contacted someone offering food stamps for sale on Craigslist. He or she wanted to meet at the Walmart at El Con Mall. The seller did not respond. Sellers typically charge half the face value of their food stamps.

"I don't know if they need them or not, I don't know if they're in hard spots and all they get is the food stamps and they need the cash for who knows what," Tiffany said. "But what they are doing is a felony."

The Arizona Department of Economic Security oversees these benefits and says suspected fraud can be reported online here or by calling the department's toll free hotline at 1-800-251-2436. We are also reporting to DES the food stamp ads that we saw.

If you have any story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444. 

© 2017 NBCNEWS.COM


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