In Wisconsin, selling or buying state food assistance benefits is considered fraud, yet that isn't stopping people from trying it. In the trafficking of food benefits, Facebook is fast becoming the preferred choice for uniting sellers with buyers.
Food benefit buyers usually offer 50 cents on the dollar in exchange for a food assistance debit card outright or the temporary use of a benefit card along with the seller's PIN number. Buyers get two times the food value and sellers have cash to buy other things not covered by the benefit program.
Many of those involved in the trafficking of food assistance benefits say they were not aware that the practice is illegal. They sometimes need money for other necessities such as paying rent or car repairs and the only way to make ends meet is to sell the food stamps. However, applications for food benefit assistance make it clear that only the recipient or an authorized family member is allowed to use the card for food purchases.
Some people who have tried to sell or buy via social media point out that simply posting a message on Facebook inquiring about the purchase of food benefits isn't proof that an illegal transaction has occurred. Many maintain that the transactions were never completed.
The problem is not isolated to just a particular state, but rather appears to occur nationwide. As long as there are sellers that need cash and buyers willing to pay the price, the practice will likely continue.
Some have suggested that food benefit cards should have the recipient's photos on them and users should be required to offer a pictured ID when presenting the cards. The USDA has come out against such actions saying that the recipient and any authorized family member is entitled to use the card.
Source: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel online, "Buyers, sellers of food stamps use Facebook to connect," Jason Stein and Raquel Rutledge, 04 June 2011