USDA taking new steps to combat food stamp fraud

WASHINGTON — The government is trying to crack down on food stamp recipients who are ripping off taxpayers by illegally selling their benefit cards for cash.

The Agriculture Department wants to curb the practice by giving states more power to investigate people who repeatedly claim to lose their benefit cards and then ask for replacements.

It is proposing new rules Thursday that would allow states to demand formal explanations from people who seek replacement cards more than three times a year. Those who don't comply can be denied further cards.

USDA officials say they are even getting complaints of people using websites like eBay and Craigslist to buy and sell food stamps.

Food stamp fraud costs taxpayers about $750 million a year, or 1 percent of the $75 billion program.

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