What Is Food Stamp Fraud?

Renee Booker
Renee Booker
Food stamps allow low-income people to purchase food.
Food stamps allow low-income people to purchase food.

The food stamp program, or supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP), is a public assistance program for low-income individuals and families within the United States. Like most welfare, or public assistance, programs within the U.S., the program is jointly funded by the federal and state governments, although administered by the states. When an applicant or recipient of benefits falsifies an application, applies for benefits in more than one state, or sells his or her benefits for profit, he or she may be guilty of food stamp fraud. The possible penalty for this crime can be incarceration, as it is generally charged as a felony.

When an individual applies for food stamps or SNAP benefits, a lengthy application must be completed. Among the information requested is information regarding all family members, monthly expenses and income, and any assets the applicant has, such as vehicles or bank accounts. There is usually a statement at the end of the application warning the applicant that submitting false information or omitting necessary information may be considered fraud, as well as what the possible penalty may be if convicted.

If an applicant is receiving benefits in more than one state at the same time, that is also considered food stamp fraud. The federal and state rules require an applicant to be a resident of the state wherein he or she makes application for benefits. Attempting to apply in a second state without stopping benefits in the first can lead to criminal charges.

Selling or transferring food stamp benefits for profit is another way in which a person may be guilty of fraud. Food stamps are intended to assist needy individuals in purchasing nutritious food. Only the recipient or authorized family members may use the benefits. A person who sells or barters benefits for cash, alcohol, or anything else of value is committing fraud.

Food stamp fraud is a serious crime and carries with it serious potential penalties. A person may be charged with a felony at the state and/or federal level. Although the penalties for a felony will vary among the different states, in most places, a felony conviction carries a possible term of incarceration of at least a year or more. In addition, conviction will prevent the offender from receiving food stamp benefits in the future, even if he or she is otherwise eligible.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


What if the individual has passed away but still has a food stamp balance available on the card? Can the person that he or she was living with use the stamps to buy food?


Is it fraud if a woman in the household receives food stamps for four children and herself? She is living with a man who receives social security and she doesn't report the income when receiving food stamps.


I recently found out my mom is claiming me on her food stamps and I do not live in her household. Because she is saying that, I can't apply for food stamps because I get denied. How should I go about reporting her?


I just found out my ex wife may be claiming my children, whom I have full custody of. What is the process I need to take to see if this is accurate? I am in New York.


@Fa5t3r - I do think people should report food stamp fraud, of course, but frankly, I think that most people spend way too much time worrying about it. I'm almost positive that if you looked at how much money was lost through fraud in this case it would be very insignificant (particularly when you compare it to white collar fraud) and people just use it as an excuse to complain about welfare programs.

I'd rather that some people earn a few dollars on the side from defrauding the system and that a whole lot of poor children get fed, then that the system be shut down because of people clutching their pearls over this kind of crime.

If anything, I think it should be easier for people to get this kind of help. Most people won't ask for it unless they desperately need it, but you wouldn't think that by listening to the way the majority talks about people on welfare.


@Iluviaporos - I'm sure that and worse goes on in the States as well. It really makes me sick that people would go through the food stamp application process for the sole purpose of selling them to make money when they don't need it. There are so many people out there who do need food stamps to survive, particularly families with children, and the existence of food stamp fraud puts the whole system into jeopardy.

It's just a despicable thing to do if you ask me.


@anon346010 - Technically, I think that's illegal, although I'm not sure anyone would blame someone for doing that. What people do get into serious trouble for, though, is continuing to receive food stamps on behalf of someone who has passed away.

I haven't heard of anything really bad in the States, but I did read an article once about a guy in Japan who essentially told everyone that his father was a shut-in and didn't want to see his friends anymore, when the reality was that his father had passed away and his body was still locked in his room, so that the son could continue to get his retirement money.

I don't think it's a terrible thing to use food stamps that are already lying around, but once you get a new card without your own food stamps eligibility that definitely counts as fraud.


What if the individual has passed away but still has a food stamp balance available on the card? Can the person that he or she was living with use the stamps to buy food?

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Food stamps allow low-income people to purchase food.
      Food stamps allow low-income people to purchase food.