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California EBT cards vulnerable to scams and thefts


SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – Your News Channel looked into a recent series of thefts from Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards in Santa Barbara County.

In response to your News Channels inquiries, the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services detailed the nationwide issues stemming from benefits cards and provided links detailed below if you or someone you know is a victim.

In response to the risk of theft that California's EBT cards provide to criminals, the state has scheduled for EBT cards to have a chip and a tap payment option starting in April of 2024 relay the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services.

According to the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services, the common ways that EBT card information is stolen or acquired is through skimmers and scammers.

Skimmers are devices installed on card payment devices such as ATMs, point-of-sale terminals at stores, and gas station pumps. These devices are designed to be difficult to identify and are used to collect your information by reading information from your card and recording your PIN.

Criminals then use that information to create fake cards and steal your benefits.

Scammers are criminals who trick you into sharing your card information and PIN so they can get ahold of your benefits.

Examples include calls or emails pretending to be someone else or making threats, or saying there is a problem they can help with if they get your information detail the County Department of Social Services.

Both versions, skimmers and scammers, need your card information and PIN. These helpful tips can help you keep yourself and others safe:

  • Keep your EBT card number and PIN a secret. Don't share it with anyone.
  • Cover your hand while typing in your PIN, to protect your PIN from hidden cameras.
  • Inspect the ATM card reader or point-of-sale keypad. If it feels loose or misaligned, there may be a skimmer attached to it.
  • Try to change your PIN the day before your benefits become available, every month.
  • If you get a text or email about your EBT card, don't click any links. The county and state will never call, email, or text you asking for your card number and PIN.
  • Watch out for suspicious websites.
  • Keep track of your EBT balance daily so you will know right away if something is wrong. You can check you EBT balance online at or; by phone at 1-877-328-9677; or by checking your receipt after each purchase.
  • See this five-minute "Watch Out for EBT Scams!" video (English or Spanish) from the California Department of Social Services

If you believe that your food or cash benefits have been stolen, contact the California EBT Customer Service Helpline at 1-877-328-9677 or the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services office at 1-844-289-4682 as soon as possible.

Article Topic Follows: Your Money
california department of social services
consumer protection
Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services
tips and tricks

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Andrew Gillies

Andrew is a Digital Content Producer and Assignment Desk Assistant for News Channel 3-12. For more about Andrew, click here.


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