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State Auditors Use Analytics to Crack Down on SNAP Fraud

State auditors have been working to identify and convict those who use the SNAP program fraudulently—both recipients and store personnel.

Posted: Jun 5, 2018 4:49 PM
Updated: Jun 5, 2018 4:51 PM

SALEM, Or. — A recent attempt in U.S. Congress to pass a Farm Bill that would place greater restrictions on recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) illuminated a growing concern among some Americans that the program is being misused.

According to the office of Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, the state's Audits Division has been hard at work identifying such culprits and convicting them or banning them from eligibility entirely.

“I am proud of the inroads the Audits Division has made in helping to identify and stop fraud in the SNAP program,” said Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. “With 1 in 4 Oregonians relying on this aid, we must ensure these benefits are protected for those who need them.”

Yet according to Secretary Richardson's office, even with such a large portion of Oregonians using the program, fraud is a relatively rare occurrence. To date, the Oregon Audits Division has tracked down and helped to convict five merchants and ban a total of 59 SNAP recipients—again, that's five convictions and 59 bans since the Audits Division began investigating SNAP fraud several years ago.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the SNAP program, and estimates that fraud consists of only 1-4 percent of the program's total cost. Still, SNAP is such a large presence in Oregon that this amounts to $10-40 million in misused funds every year.

Secretary Richardson's office estimates that their current convictions and bans will save the state $1.7 million in future costs.

"We in the Secretary of State’s office are committed to identifying and reducing fraud in Oregon,” said Secretary Richardson. 

Auditors analyze SNAP data using analytic and mapping software to identify red flags that could help state and federal fraud investigations, according to the Secretary of State's office.

The Audits Division often focuses on a common fraud scheme—one where beneficiaries and merchants conspire to profit from the program. In this scheme, a merchant runs a benefits card as if the beneficiary is paying for food, but the merchant provides cash instead—typically 50 cents on the dollar. The beneficiary then pockets the cash and the merchant is reimbursed electronically through the EBT system for full value of the charge.

USDA has also recently awarded a $300,000 grant to the Oregon Department of Human Services, so they can apply the same kind of anlaytic investigation of potential SNAP fraud.

“We will continue to partner with the Department of Human Services, the USDA, and the Office of Inspector General to investigate SNAP fraud,” said Secretary Richardson.

CLICK HERE for our previous story on the SNAP program and how some politicians have argued for stricter rules.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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