Unfortunately, too many people have found fraudulent charges on their credit or debit cards in recent years, but now those who receive food and nutrition benefits from the state using an Electronic Benefits Transfer card – or “EBT” card – have to worry about the same threat.

On Thursday, Aug. 24, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) notified the public and EBT card users that department officials had become aware of the scam targeting Food and Nutrition Services beneficiaries. Over the previous four days, at least 650 EBT cards had been compromised across North Carolina. It also warned that about 7,000 cards have been identified as “potentially compromised.”

“The suspected scammers appear to be targeting FNS beneficiaries by calling or texting them and asking for personal data and/or their PIN numbers, which are being used to steal money from the beneficiaries’ EBT cards.” the NCDHHS press release reads. “Out of an abundance of caution, the potentially compromised cards have been cancelled and replacement cards have been issued to beneficiaries of FNS [Food and Nutrition Services].”

 It can take up to seven business days for FNS beneficiaries to get their new EBT cards.

The department is issuing new benefits to replace any stolen electronic benefits from card users.

Starting on Monday, Aug. 28, FNS beneficiaries who’ve had benefits stolen from their accounts will be asked to complete, sign and submit an “Affidavit of Stolen Benefits” to the social services department or agency in their county.

State officials also warn that If you receive email or texts from someone asking for EBT card information or your PIN, don’t even respond. Neither county social services offices nor NCDHHS will ever ask for this information through email or unsecure text message.

NCDHHS recommends that EBT card users take the following steps to keep their EBT account secure:

• Check your EBT account regularly for unauthorized charges. You can check your balance and/or replace a lost or stolen card by visiting www.ebtedge.com, using the EBT Edge mobile app or by contacting the North Carolina EBT Call Center at 1-888-622-7328.

• Check card reading machines in stores to make sure nothing suspicious is overlayed or attached to the card swiper.

• Contact local law enforcement to report the stolen benefits.

• Call the EBT Call Center at 1-888-622-7328 to request a new EBT Card at no cost if your account has been compromised.

• Pick a difficult PIN to guess rather than something like 1234 or 4444.

• If you suspect card skimming, freeze your EBT card so that fraudulent purchases can’t be made using your card.

• Change the PIN to the EBT card regularly using a new number each time.

• Block out-of-state and online purchases from EBT Edge accounts or the mobile app.