FAYETTEVILLE — It's been four months since Cumberland County began using debit cards to curb food stamp fraud. The trial program seems to be working.
Department of Social Services officials say changing from food stamps to electronic benefit transfer cards is one of the smoothest transactions they've ever experienced. There were some bugs in the system early on. But now that those have been worked out, the cards appear to be a success.
Some elderly users of the EBT card were forgetting their PIN or password numbers. That has been one of the only problems with the new card.
"We are trying to have them come up with a number that represents something they could remember," says Chip Modlin of DSS. "We hate to say a birthday or something like that, but a number they don't have to write down for someone to find for security reasons."
In a three-county pilot program, EBT cards replaced food stamps in April. It works like a debit card. In just four months, DSS officials say welfare fraud has dropped dramatically.
"I think the fraud has been decreased by like 90 percent," Modlin admits. "Also, we have reports we can check-- the questionable transactions, the hit list-- those things can be checked immediately if there are problems or if there is fraud."
The pilot program will be expanded this fall into the western part of North Carolina. Then in June 1999, the program will go statewide.
Despite the success of the program, there is still the 10 percent that represent slip-ups in the system. In the 5:30 p.m. report, WRAL will explain how some people are still abusing their welfare benefits.