According to an inspector general report released this week, retailers registered with Social Security numbers matching those of dead people redeemed more than $2 billion in food stamp benefits.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspector general reviewed billions of transactions through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. It found that thousands of stores authorized to accept food stamps were using the Social Security numbers of deceased persons.
“We found that 3,394 authorized SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) retailers used Social Security Numbers (SSN) that matched SSNs of deceased people,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspector general said.
Between October 2013 and June 2015, the inspector general identified 3,394 stores owned by 1,819 people who were using SSNs listed on the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File.
Another 193 retailers listed owners who were not at least 18 years of age, the report showed.
An average of 46 million Americans receive food stamps every month through the food stamp program, which costs $70 billion per year.
The government says it is now reviewing the 1,819 owners using the SSNs of dead people.
Without accurate information, the nation’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) does not have a guarantee that retailers are who they claim to be, the report said, which could “leave the program open to abuse by disqualified individuals and others wishing to hide their identity for possible fraudulent purposes,” and the FNS could have little recourse to take action.