Lower Than a Snake’s Belly

 

There are scam artists, and there are scam artists. It sounds like this latest crew is lower than a snake’s belly, targeting veterans who are on federal food assistance who hold an EBT card (food debit card). They appear to be doing so by hijacking the good name and good works of a legendary American entertainer and a veterans’ charity organization.

I had a conversation with a Veterans of Foreign Wars life member after calling into our local VFW post. I happened to be there to take care of back-office business. The veteran called seeking more information about a grant with Charlie Daniels’ name attached. He read a snippet of the web-based pitch, something along the lines of: “Get out your EBT card and get ready to receive four months of living expenses.”

Immediately, I alerted on “EBT card.” I told this combat veteran that it was almost certainly a scam. He did not know what EBT was, so I explained: “It is the food stamp card.” “Oh! But they have Charlie Daniels’ picture and name right on top of this page.”

“Yes,” I said, “the scammers are out in force and exploiting the coronavirus situation to try to get people’s debit card information.” “Thanks,” he said, with some disappointment. I did a quick search and found two pages that helped paint the likely picture. The first was from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

FRAUD ALERT: USDA Warns of Scams Targeting SNAP Recipients
FNS Communications: fnspress@usda.gov

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2020 – Be on the lookout for potential scammers using the COVID-19 situation to steal personal information, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) warned Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants today. USDA is issuing this warning after receiving reports of several possible SNAP fraud attempts.

“While many organizations are seeking to help communities respond to COVID-19, SNAP participants should be suspicious of any unknown individual or organization that requests their confidential information,” said Brandon Lipps, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, which administers the SNAP program at the federal level. “This is a difficult time for us all, and we certainly don’t want to see bad actors taking advantage of those in need.”

Examples of confidential information include social security number, bank information, or a participant’s SNAP EBT card or PIN number. In one potential scam, a website asked SNAP recipients to enter their personal and bank account information to qualify for COVID-related monetary assistance.

If SNAP participants are unsure if a request for information is legitimate, USDA advises they contact their local SNAP office. If they do not know their local SNAP office, participants should contact their state agency. State contact information is available at https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/state-directory.

To stay on top of potential scams, please visit USDA’s SNAP scam alert webpage at https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/scam-alerts.

If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, contact your local police department regarding procedures for filing a report. You may also file a consumer complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://www.ftc.gov. FTC is the federal agency responsible for protecting consumers from identity theft scams.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.

So, the alert was out a month ago about scam artists exploiting vulnerable people with EBT cards. Now add in the extra lowdown twist of exploiting a real charitable relief effort:

CHARLIE DANIELS AND THE JOURNEY HOME PROJECT JOIN FORCES WITH CODE OF VETS TO AID VETERANS AMID COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Nashville, Tenn. (April 20, 2020) — Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Daniels and his veterans non-profit The Journey Home Project (TJHP) are joining forces with another non-profit group, Code of Vets, to aid former U.S. servicemen and women who are suffering amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Today the country music and southern rock icon announced the partnership between the two organizations. Their collective mission is a call to action to seek public donations for vets suffering from economic hardships as well as those who have contracted the virus.

“Gretchen Smith and the folks at Code of Vets cover the guys below the radar, the ones with immediate needs and no place to turn, with a rapid deployment type response to veterans in desperate circumstances,” says Daniels. “These are same veterans who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom. Our nation is pretty distracted by the Coronavirus pandemic we’re all dealing with, but the need in the veterans world goes on, and the urgent need for funds is truly critical. I would ask you to join The Journey Home Project in supporting Code of Vets in providing for the needs of our most worthy citizens.”

There are many stories from Americans during the COVID-19 crisis but for weeks there has been a group suffering in silence: our veterans. Most days these men and women battle PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), hunger, homelessness and unemployment, but do their best to stay afloat. Code of Vets, a 501c3, has been on the front lines assisting a large number of veterans and their families, finding those in need of even the most basic items such as food, running water and electricity. Some have been infected with the virus itself.
“We are operating under emergency conditions with this alarming spike of veterans in crisis,” explains Code of Vets Founder Gretchen Smith. “Please donate to assist with basic needs like food, housing and utilities. Our veterans matter. Every dollar matters. It is on us to take care of our own.”

“I’ve watched the amazing work that Gretchen and her team have done over the past year,” notes TJHP co-founder and Daniels’ manager David Corlew. “It’s a natural fit for us to team with Code of Vets during a critical time such as this. Our Veterans need us. They fought for us so it’s time for us to return the service. We can do this.”

In pre-COVID-19 times Code of Vets assisted veterans with mental health crisis, unemployment, housing and transportation, among others, but they are now encountering dire situations that they never expected. Pressing issues include:

  • 75 requests for food assistance in the last five days — four within one hour
  • Veterans with no electricity or water because bills cannot be paid
  • Code of Vets is spending hours on the phone with much higher number of suicidal vets who cannot properly process the pandemic
  • Eleven veterans in CA were recently lifted from homelessness by raising enough funds to pay for room and board at a veteran’s board and care — these veterans have all lost their jobs and we are scrambling to find funding for their food and board
  • Many veterans living in motels/extended stay hotels who have lost jobs and cannot pay their upcoming bills — rent and mortgage relief programs do not apply to them
  • Many veterans are finding their mortgage companies are not deferring payments and cannot pay mortgage due to layoffs
  • Veterans unable to afford even gas and car payments — it is imperative to keep vehicles so they can reach the VA for necessary mental health appointments
  • This is only a glimpse into COVID-19’s effect on the veteran community.

“It is no longer business as usual. The urgency of these needs require all of our resources all of the time and we need more Americans to step up for our veterans as they did for them,” adds Smith.

Daniels and The Journey Home Project urge the public to donate to Code of Vets during this trying time for our nation’s military heroes. Donations can be made at codeofvets.com.

Notice there is not one word there about EBT cards. Looking at the Code of Vets and at The Journey Home Project confirms they too are not talking about EBT cards. Naturally. There are scammers and then there are scammers. Some are just lower than a snake’s belly. I’m thinking this particular crew is lower than whale dung.

Published in Domestic Policy
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There are 5 comments.

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  1. Sisyphus (Rolling Stone) Member
    Sisyphus (Rolling Stone)
    @Sisyphus

    They should be more careful. Lot’s of veterans have a little extra time on their hands and a can do attitude to bring to bear.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Lower than whale dung may also too be high a rating. I don’t understand how people can prey on the vulnerable in general, but when they scam our veterans, it’s just too much. Thanks for signalling us, Clifford, especially those who are connected to veterans.

    • #2
  3. Tree Rat Inactive
    Tree Rat
    @RichardFinlay

    Clifford, do you mind if I excerpt this? I would like to communicate to our AL, VFW, and VVA members through a monthly AL newsletter.

    • #3
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Tree Rat (View Comment):

    Clifford, do you mind if I excerpt this? I would like to communicate to our AL, VFW, and VVA members through a monthly AL newsletter.

    Please do.

    • #4
  5. Ray Gunner Coolidge
    Ray Gunner
    @RayGunner

    Dante was right to put fraudsters deep down in Circle #8.  This is the kind of deliberate abuse and theft from vulnerable people makes summary execution seem just about right. 

    • #5
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