Dear PoP – food stamp fraud

Photo by PoPville flickr user hellomarkers!

“Dear PoP,

We went to the Safeway in Petworth the other night to pick up a frozen pizza or something for dinner. A young man came up to us in the store and said if we were paying cash, he’d like to trade our cash for his food stamps. Now, I’m sure this happens all the time, but it really made me angry. Those food stamps are for a reason, and if you are
bartering them for cash to buy whatever you can’t buy with them, then you don’t really need them. Is there a way to report such abuses? Anything that I could do next time I’m approached like this?”

What do you guys think should be done in this situation?

86 Comment

  • So much cash did you give him?

  • “What do you guys think should be done in this situation?” offer him 50 cents on the dollar and enjoy your cheap groceries?

  • At minimum, I’d report it to the manager, and file a complaint with corporate.

  • Say no thanks and walk away.

    It seems crimminal activity of all kinds is accetable in our neighbor. That is clear even by the first two answers who I will assume are not getting food stamps.

    Desperate people do desperate things.

  • Extracted from D.C. Human Services website:,a,3,q,492677.asp

    Assistance Fraud
    Residents who know of, and wish to report fraud or abuse of the cash assistance, food stamp, Medicaid or any other benefit program provided by the Department of Human Services, should call the 24-hour hotline for fraud at (202) 673-4464 in the Office of Program Review, Monitoring and Investigation (OPRMI). Anonymous calls are accepted. Callers who give their names can request confidentiality at (202) 671-4496.

    • Also. I would snap a picture of the person with your camera…or try to obtain their name somehow.

      • Why not just make a citizen’s arrest? I think Cathy Lanier should watch Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol for some new ideas on fighting crime.

  • Sad but common for people to exchange them 2 for 1. That way they can buy all the fun things that food stamps aren’t accepted for.

    • I’m NOT condoning food stamp fraud — but sometimes people really do need things that food stamps don’t cover: like toilet paper, soap, tylenol…. so trying to exchange food stamps for cash isn’t always for the “fun” stuff.

      • I am well aware of that, having grown up horribly embarrased about receiving free lunch, government assistance, etc. But this is fraud, plain and simple. And if you are buying the fun stuff, then you are taking food out of the mouths of the kids who actually need it.

      • you can’t buy toilet paper? That does seem somewhat against the spirit of the program.

  • Man, I got these cheeseburgers! They some double cheeseburgers.

  • The government should just provide cash instead of trying to restrict what people can and cannot buy with cash assistance. It is inefficient and doesn’t work hence the blackmarket for food stamps. I don’t think what you experienced is uncommon. I would just leave the person alone. Who knows what they might have been trying to buy. Maybe they need more money for medical bills or something else.

    • Or drugs and booze…. but I’m sure it’ll go towards grandpa’s diabetes medication. cmon now, we’re not that naive, are we?

    • Um, no. When you’re dependant on government funds to support yourself, you’re SUPPOSED lose some control over how you live you life. Otherwise it would just be free cash happy funtime. Oh wait, everyone in front of me at that Safeway is paying with an independence card while talking on the newest smartphone. This city is pathetic.

      • “Independence card”. Is that really what those cards are really called? Now that’s ironic!!

        • in DC, they’re called Capital Access Cards (most people call them EBT cards, which is the national name for this type of card). They’re called Independence Cards in DC.

    • If you qualify for food stamps you definitely qualify for free medical care. Don’t start inventing situations that don’t exist.

    • …Do you really feel this way or are you trying to draw the ire of complete strangers?

    • Yeah, they need their “medicine” which is purchased in the alleys behind our houses from the same people who have been shooting up the neighborhood the last couple weeks.

  • Did you read that in NYC, food stamps will no longer cover sugary beverages, like regular soda? Good idea in my opinion. Check check check it out.

  • Keep in mind that $1 of “food stamp” credit buys $2 of groceries. This is typically a scam (actually, fraud against the U.S. Gov’t) wherein the food stamp / EBT recipient gets twice as much cash from those who fall for the scheme.

    Never, ever go along with this.

    • that’s not true. $1 of food stamps buys $1 of groceries everywhere except some farmers’ markets who offer ‘double dollars’ (there are 3 of those in DC).

  • Yes. DoA takes food stamp fraud very seriously. You should contact the the Food Nutrition Services SNAP program at the Department of Agriculture.

    However, I’m pretty sure food stamps are done via a debt card these days, so it might have been just a hustle.

  • I once saw someone paying for $60 worth of crown roast at a whole foods with foods stamps. It really pissed me off.

    I make six figures, and I don’t feel like I can afford that.

    meanwhile the woman buying it was clutching a designer bag. oh wait, maybe she got those foodstamps at 50 cents to the dollar. hmmmm.

    • Seeing that would seriously trouble me as well. Does anyone know how the WIC program works? Does it do a better job of getting food essentials to those who need it — while reducing the opportunity for fraud or mis-use?

      • From my time spent as a grocery store clerk (about 7 years ago) I’d say yes, it does do a better job. Not only do the coupons specify what to buy (16 oz cheese, 24 oz fruit juice, 2 cans infant formula, etc) but the guidelines for what you are vs. are not allowed to purchase in each category were relatively strict – you can buy Cheerios but not Cocoa Puffs, and so on.

        • yep. Worked at a grocery store in high school. WIC covers milk, eggs, healthy cereal, formula, juicy juice

    • I’d be ecstatic if everyone on food stamps fed their families so well. A roast could go a long way in a family especially in the winter.

    • You’re offended that someone was buying good, high-quality food with food stamps, with which to feed her family? What the heck is wrong with you, man?

    • if you make six figure and can’t afford that you should reevaluate how you are living. or stop doing coke.

  • Uh, before we get all self-righteous, let’s remember- that person might have been trading because it’s the only way he can get cash. Food stamps by food, but they don’t pay your gas bill or buy your kids warm coats.

    • It might be the only way he can get cash, but I know another much more common way that 90% of the working population do to get cash…well, they work. Gas bills and no coats… its September, save that for January when its a legitimate concern… you can make up any excuse to legitimize the persons behavior, absent taking responsibility for themselves and earning that cash the old fashioned way, working for it.

      • by he, i think you mean she. most of the women do have jobs plus kids, but they have men who disappeared. its sad that i am always surprised when i see a man walking with his kid in the city.

    • I would be utterly shocked that he couldn’t get a high paying job. Frankly, I totally disbelieve your statement. It sounds more like “certain people” aren’t smart enough to get jobs like the “rest of us.”

    • i was getting law righteous, not self righteous.
      i believe that laws should be upheld. if they are unjust they should be changed. do you think its unjust to suggest a limitation on what you can buy with food stamps, which you did not earn?

      personally, i think it’s fine for the person that gives you something for free to define how you can use that thing.

    • get off your high horse. If this person was on food stamps, I would not be surprised at all if he lived in government subsidized housing as well.

      Stop making excuses for other people. If your kids need winter coats, go to the salvation army and get something there. Don’t buy the nicest jacket you can get. Even better, suck it up and take that job that you don’t want. Many college grads are doing the same.

    • “Food stamps buy food, but they don’t pay your gas bill or buy your kids warm coats.”

      …Wake up… He isn’t buying a coat for his kid, or warming the house… besides… there are OTHER assistance programs for those necessities. Why defraud the system for goods or services that may also be subsidized?

      A quick buck for a quick thrill.

  • Let’s not forget that about 30% of DC residents are low income and 15% live below the poverty line (or something like that). That’s almost 200,000 people living within a mile or two of you. You can expect a fair amount of hustling going on.

    And hey, I am all for nonviolent crimes compared to using violence for petty thefts. Pick my pocket, burgle my home, get me with a confidence scam, all that is great compared to killings and beatings and such. So maybe this food stamp hustle is progress of some sort?

    • I was pleased to see the latest robbery trend is using mace. I’d much rather be maced and robbed than shot/knifed and robbed.

  • I know the WSJ is owned by Murdoch, so this is some kind of propaganda, but note what is in the shopping carts and what people’s cloths look like…they look to be doing okay for seemingly being “poor”…

    • “Poor” does not mean unclothed. They’re all wearing t-shirts and pants/shorts – seems like pretty basic stuff that can be purchased relatively inexpensively at walmart. I don’t get your point.

    • I didn’t see anyone in Versace or D&G in those images. What are you talking about?

    • Seriously, what are you referring to specifically? There’s not an article of clothing shown that costs more than $10 I’d say, and some folks are wearing freebie ‘promotional’ shirts it seems. They’re literally all wearing shorts and t shirts for the most part.

      I do agree many look fat, but cheap food in the US is generally very fattening. Veggies and whole wheat type of stuff is expensive compared to dollar burritos and such (which I confess I love).

      • I can make burritos for about 50-cents each with rice, beans, and some veggies. Add some fried egg or something and it doesn’t add up to that much more. It’s absolutely possible to eat healthy and cheap, but you have to have the knowledge, cooking skills, and access to a basic grocery and stove.

  • Interesting, I think some ethnic groups see the “rules” as a starting point, the majority always get hung up on “the rules” Lets give the guy the benefit of the doubt.

  • “They’re young, they’re broke, and they pay for organic salmon with government subsidies. Got a problem with that?”

    Just another government welfare scheme rife with fraud and abuse.

    • Outrage over people using food stamps to buy organic salmon is such a crock. I’d much rather have people use their food stamps to buy organic salmon than Cheez-Its and Fruit Loops.

    • Another example of how people have nothing to do but harbor resentments against the poor. If they were using food stamps to buy soda and candy, you’d be railing against them for that, too. One thing that is important is to stay healthy: that’s going to help you find a job, so you might as well continue to eat healthy.

  • I buy food stamps from a neighbor. Just recently, she was desperate to sell some of her daughter’s stamps. Th reason: her daughter’s boyfriend broke up with her (another woman) and she needed the money to pay the rent. This woman gets at least $600 in food stamps. She’s not a drug user. People go through things. They are all not on drugs.

    The bottom line is that the gov’t shouldn’t be involved in something as personal as someone food choices. Consider the irony that food stamps can’t be used to buy prepared food. Yet, processed food is allowed. Now ask yourself, which is worse, Whole Foods deli or potted mean and Vienna Sausages?

  • Get hip. This is called “half and half” and people have been doing it for years. You get $100 worth of groceries for $50 in stamps. Drug dealers typically wont accept anything but cash so…

  • For a country where the top 50% of the population owns 97.5% of the wealth, we sure manage to drum up a lot of outrage about how the poor are ripping us off.

    • I’m opposed to selling food stamps, but not because it’s wasting my tax dollars. It’s because there only x amount of money in the pipeline, and those who abuse the aid most acutely harm those who properly use the aid.

      By the way, I checked on the SNAP calculator, and someone with a family of four trying to get by on unemployment benefits and with no other assets would qualify for about $600/month on food stamps. Almost exactly what I spend on groceries per month for my family of four. The thing is, I could cut that bill by 30 percent with only moderate effort. Were I on food stamps, would it be right to sell the $180 worth of leftover stamps for $90 of much-needed cash?

    • I’m with you Lee. There is a lot of venom this blog for the poor.

      • I always notice that here… it’s bizarre that in such an apparently left-leaning city that people despise the poor so much and have this sense of entitlement to their own wealth. I think this blog overrepresents the tiny republican minority in DC for some reason, or else most of the people don’t actually live in DC and just enjoy meddling for some reason. Or there’s just one right-wing nutjob who posts under dozens of aliases. Whatever the reason, the hostility toward the underprivileged is just sad.

        • I can’t be sure but I think a lot of people lose their bleeding hearts after a little while in DC. I believe in charity and helping the poor (being barely middle class myself) but the self destruction and idiocy apparent in much of the DC poor makes me question whether charity has backfired in DC. Check out the liquor stores along Georgia Ave on an average morning, talk to people who’d never consider going more than a mile or two to find a job, as well as folks who honestly believe prime downtown housing is their right (but not paying rent). I’ve come to believe that charity in DC has simply maintained a permanently dependent underclass, and there’s not enough charity in the world to satisfy them. These are all generalizations of course and everyone’s different, but the best I can do for a blog post 😉

          I don’t get angry of course (well maybe sometimes) but I think a lot of that comes out here from other people as they discover the reality.

        • hahahahahahahahahahaha.

          you need to get out and talk to your neighbors you idiot.

        • what? So only republicans respect the laws regarding foodstamps? Democrats must love fraud and crime? Get your head on straight, what you wrote is utter BS.

          I have a GOOD FRIEND. She has a college degree. She stayed underemployed for over a year because she didn’t want to accept a job she couldn’t respect. So she temped 3 weeks out of 4 and complained. She is “poor” because she’s an a**hole who refuses to work. I have many friends in this boat.

          In fact there’s a beloved member of the Petworth community who has been a friend of mine for 25 years who is poor because he only accepts jobs where he can be the beloved member of such and such community.

          I worked with this woman who I’ll call “A” when I was young and took an active interest in helping her kids. She was African-American, lived in Ward 7, her husband left her. I talked to her a LOT about returning to college- she quit when she got pregnant- but the 5 years I knew her she never took a single college class. I told her the only way she could get ahead was to finish college but she always had something else to spend money on- car repairs, lunch with friends, getting her hair done, getting her kids’ hair done.

          Meanwhile I returned to college, got my degree, then went to graduate school (but didn’t complete my masters), then earned several IT certifications.

          I recently lost my job- my company lost a major contract and we were all screwed. Everyone told me to go on unemployment. I didn’t. Instead I networked and found one really incredible recruiter in California. I talked to her and pitched my skills and I told her the exact kind of company I wanted to work for. She found me this company but the job required massive amounts of travel on my part. I told her I’d accept it at a very high salary- not starting with a 2 but close. Massive raise for massive work. The company had me in for an interview. I wowed them. I demanded the job and got it. In 2 paychecks I paid off all my credit card debt and my car loan. Now I start making interest.

          Kids are poor because their parents made terrible decisions and that sucks. But adults are poor if:
          1. They’re mentally retarded or otherwise incapacitated
          2. They make a personal decision to stay poor.

          I know this guy S. S’s mother sent him to live with grandma in Ward 5. He got into computers and convinced a high school teacher to help him find an internship. After school every day he’d put on his one white shirt and go work in this government office building at a help desk, learning how to make MS Office work for people. He wrote, in high school, a 100+ page BOOK in virtual street language how to use MS Office and won an award from his government agency as intern of the year or something. Every day he got out of his neighborhood and saw how people work in an office. by the time I knew him he owned his own computer consulting company with government clients. The last I talked to him he moved his family to a ranch in the desert, managed his company remotely, and sent his daughters to the same exclusive private school as the local football and basketball stars. Born poor and black to a drugged out mother? No impediment to riches.

          No able-minded adult is poor in DC except those who decide to be poor.

    • Seems like 50% of the population is respectable and hard working.

      We should cut the dead weight as soon as possible.

  • To return to the original question about what should be done- two words: say no. End of story.

  • its shit like this that fuel support for republican candidates and policies.
    i constantly here about welfare fraud from people who increasingly and increasingly say stupid ass things like “people should only get what they pay for.”

    these are, by the way, people that love cops, firefighters, emts, the military, public schools and they all drive on those public roads. but they all vote. and they all hate those socialist welfare programs

    reporting crime and fraud helps to keep welfare programs.
    you people who would just slide with this are helping to take these programs away from people that need it.

  • call the police and feel good about yourself.

    I’ve heard about this but I give off a “Don’t approach” vibe so I’ve never seen it.

  • What he did is fraud on a federal level. Food stamps are a federal program.

    The shameless part, that someone pointed out, is that he effectively was taking food out of the mouths of children. They did not ask to be born into this situation.

    For the people who complain about this particular program, what’s the alternative for the children here. Telling them, “If your parents don’t get their act together, too bad if you go to school a little hungry and go to bed hungry.

    I dare those who are the harshest to give us their real names, addresses and phone numbers. Stand publicly by what you’re saying, and tell us about the governmental benefits that you and your family might have received over the past few generations:

    – the internet, cell phones, smart devices, satellite technology — a gift of the federal government to you
    – $$$ from socialized gambling (state/city lotteries)
    – use of federal highway system and Georgia Avenue improvements done with $$$ from the federal dollars
    – use of federal, government-sponsored FAA
    – educational loans
    – President George W. Bush’s TAARP program to prevent a collapse of the financial system….

    Hating poor people and being indifferent to the children born into those households is cruel and heartless.

    Now, what was your name? Where do you live?

    Joe Martin
    4230 4th St NW
    202-309-1817 personal cell

  • Dan Silverman, Prince of Petworth, would you consider only letting people post if they use verifiable names, addresses and telephone numbers?

    • Yes, lets overturn decades of internet custom and start using real names. That way all of us who post incessantly during work hours can be recognized and fired by our bosses.

      You know you can easily start your own blog and make any rules you want.

  • For the critics of food stamps in Petworth, walk to the nearest school and ask how you can help advise some family in need. Walk to the Georgia Avenue/Rock Creek East Family Support Collaborative. Tell them you will volunteer time with a family or single mom with kids.

  • Does anyone ever really think about how the country you live in is run before you start spewing out the mouth? Anyone here ever call someone who doesn’t have a job a non tax paying member of society? If so, then Why does ever state accept Navada have a “State tax” meaning, even the little kid down the street is paying a “tax” that goes into the system, yet, you won’t call him a tax payer even though lets say he earned the money. A bumb on the street, walks into a store, will have to do the same thing. Meaning, a bumb is even a tax payer. I don’t remember ever “creating” money either, I get a paycheck, i cash it, i spit it back into the system. everyone I known who is getting government funding, does the same thing. I don’t remember anyone wasting what they were given, they got the check, cashed it, spit it right back into the system. Hard to believe a country can go into debt with a system like that? Ha, and as far as 90 percent of people working and ‘earning money’, please! 90 percent of the people WANT to work and earn the money, but in these days. You gotta survive. Don’t judge unless you know what it’s like. If you’re the boss of a big time company and fire half your staff to keep food in your families mouth by taking a job and money away from others.. does that make it right? Don’t be too trained, Government has everyone where they want em.

    • Well if you only fired half your staff then the other half is still working, so yeah, that is right. The alternative is for everyone to lose their jobs. We live in a mostly capitalist world, get over it. The overwhelming expectation of charity in DC simply keeps people as enslaved as their ancestors. When someone is paying your bills, they generally own you.

      But hey, no complaints here, I find ways to profit off such people in the end.

  • The cards should be linked to the bar code on your walkers ID or drivers license. Then it gets scanned at the check out and it’s all the proof the merchant needs that the funds are coming from the intended recipient. If Target can scan my DL for proof of age to buy a bottle of wine, why can’t they do the same for food stamps?? It’s that simple.

  • underprivileged?…or OVERLY ENTITLED?

  • Im a college student that discovered. I qualify for food stamps. Every once in a while I sell them for other stuff I need when I’ve been treated for a meal or two that month. Not everyone is looking for a quick thrill…..that’s what the money saved from having stamps is for.

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