LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — While thousands of Nevadans use food stamps or EBT cards to gather Thanksgiving groceries this week, one mother said she is unable to do so after losing $4,100 through fraud.

One in every seven Nevadans, or 453,300 people, utilize Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to purchase groceries each month through food stamps or EBT cards. The federal program, also known as SNAP, is overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture for millions of low-income families nationwide.

Jenneau Florez said she has received these benefits since 2008. But after purchasing $27 worth of gas station coffee and milk last Wednesday, she couldn’t purchase anything else.

“It kept saying insufficient funds, which I knew could be impossible because I had funds on there that I was saving through the whole month to Thanksgiving,” Florez said outside a south valley business Monday afternoon.

When she checked her EBT account, almost all of that money was gone, she says. The statement she provided to 8 News Now showed 42 out-of-state charges that ranged from $189 to $237, each within two hours of the original gas station purchase.

After realizing this, she began an hours-long “goose chase” to figure out if she could get it back.

“(The Division of Welfare and Supportive Services) told me that someone had to have stuck a device on top of the EBT machine, and when I swiped my card it picked up my account number and the digital sound of my pin number. It recognized everything, so they were able to use it over and over again,” Florez said. “I haven’t even got somebody to say they will investigate. They tell me they don’t have the means to investigate. What does that mean?”

Now, the mother of seven and grandmother of three fears she will not have the means to serve any holiday food this Thanksgiving.

“Our oven went out and we just bought a new oven, just so we could make a turkey… and we can’t even do that,” Florez said while wiping away a tear.

Las Vegas Metropolitan police told 8 News Now that most of this fraud occurs at ATMs in convenience stores, bars, restaurants, grocery stores and check cashing establishments. The act is called “skimming,” or when someone attaches a discreet-looking reading device to the card reader that records data from the card.

The department said these devices, often installed within seconds, are attached with two-sided tape. Touching the card reader to see if it wiggles or appears to not be secure is one way to see if a device is there, a representative said.

For now, the mother is unclear if she will ever see that money again, let alone see food on her kitchen table this Thursday. She is currently picking up gig work to make money.

She added that the state operator she spoke with told her to find a local food bank to help fill her needs in the meantime, though many have rejected her because she did not sign up for it sooner.

“It’s going to impact us until the seventh of next month when we get our reissuance,” Florez said. “(My kids) got to go to school. They’re about to be on break, and then they’ll be home and… I just feel like an a******.”

A representative with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services said efforts to prevent fraud include:

  • never sharing an EBT card or PIN with anyone
  • checking the balance at the bottom of the receipt after every transaction to verify the correct amount of money remains in the account
  • if using an app to track benefit balances, to only use the ebtEdge app from FIS Global instead of a third-party app
  • reporting fraud as soon as it is suspected on the Department of Welfare and Supportive Services website

Nevada passed the $1 billion threshold in cumulative benefits issued under the SNAP emergency allotment in July. Households on SNAP have received a monthly increase in their benefits because of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning more money than usual is susceptible to this fraud currently.

If you would like to donate to Florez you can donate to this GoFundMe.