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Thousands of New Yorkers targeted in SNAP card-skimming scam. This simple upgrade could offer a solution.

Over 80,000 New Yorkers victimized in SNAP card-skimming scam
Over 80,000 New Yorkers victimized in SNAP card-skimming scam 02:35

NEW YORK -- A card-skimming scam has targeted tens of thousands of New Yorkers who use SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

CBS New York investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi has learned a simple tech upgrade could prevent much of this agony.

Skimming devices used to rip off SNAP users

The New York City Department of Social Services says since August, they've received more than 80,000 reports of theft. It happens when scammers place skimming devices over card-reading machines. When users swipe their card, their account gets drained.

Vanda Jones and her daughter rely on SNAP benefits. She tells CBS New York just days ago, almost all her money for the month -- $434 -- was stolen.

"I feel like there's something... A weakness in the system," she said.

She reported the theft to DSS, and she was told the investigation -- and refund -- could take weeks.

Saeidi left a voicemail for DSS asking if there was any way Jones' case could be expedited. She is still waiting to hear back.

Jones' pantry is still stocked with essentials, but she says she doesn't want to touch it.

"I just want to leave that there, and then I'll use my cash to buy what we need now ... It's a comfort to know that that's there. That's my backup," she said.

Senator wants SNAP to switch to cards with chip technology

Right now, all benefits cards have magnetic strips.

Brooklyn Sen. Roxanne Persaud has asked the state to issue new cards that utilize chip technology instead of magnetic strips. She says much of the electronic theft would be eliminated.

"They're awful people, and if caught they should really be punished to the maximum extent of the law," she said.

Persaud hopes cards with chips could be rolled out by 2025. The state says they're in the early stages of implementing the technology and they need federal cooperation.

How SNAP users can combat card-skimming thefts

The DSS recommends cardholders regularly change their PIN, monitor their Electronic Benefits Transfer account for suspicious transaction and inspect card readers for skimming devices.

Cardholders are urged to avoid sharing their card details.

The DSS says there is also a new feature that allows cardholders to block transactions when their card is not in use.

To use the card freeze feature, users can log in to their account at or through the ebtEDGE app, tap the "freeze/unfreeze card" icon on the home screen, select "freeze my card everywhere" and click "OK." Users will need to unfreeze the card online or in the app before making a purchase.

If a cardholder believes their benefits have been stolen, they should followed the instructions posted here. Individuals can also submit a claim through the mail or in-person at their local SNAP or Benefits Access Center.

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