DHHS warns of phishing scam targeting Humboldt County EBT cardholders

A blank electronic benefit transfer card is shown in Sacramento. The county’s health department warned EBT card users of a scam targeting Humboldt County residents this week.
A blank electronic benefit transfer card is shown in Sacramento. The county’s health department warned EBT card users of a scam targeting Humboldt County residents this week. The Associated Press

Humboldt County health officials are warning CalFresh recipients — a program formerly known as food stamps — that a phishing scam is targeting EBT card holders.

Food For People, the local food bank, posted on Facebook on Thursday for electronic benefit transfer cards — or EBT — cardholders to beware of scam.

“People receiving CalFresh/EBT have reported receiving text messages and/or phone calls stating ‘Alert for EBT Cards beginning with 5077. Please call 858-232-3581,’” the post on Facebook stated.

Those four digits are on many EBT cards issued to Humboldt County residents.

“While we don’t have an exact count, a significant majority, if not all EBT cards in our county begin with 5077,” said Appolonia Coan, DHHS Staff Services Analyst for CalFresh Outreach and Social Services Community Liaison, in an email to the Times-Standard.

DHHS Public Education officer Christine Messinger said scams like this pop up occasionally.

“Unfortunately, these phishing scams do occur from time-to-time,” she said. “When we are notified about them we let our partners know to help get the word out and remind our clients never to give out their cards or personal identification numbers (PIN).”

Food For People, one of DHHS’ partners, said the callers reported being asked for the 16-digit card number and the pin.

“When the information is given, the perpetrators then create a card and withdraw funds from the recipient’s accounts,” the Food For People Facebook post states.

Once CalFresh funds are withdrawn by someone who has provided their card number and PIN, it cannot be returned, DHHS said.

“CalWORKs [cash aid] benefits may be reviewed for potential replacement,” said Coan.

DHHS urges anyone with questions or who believes they might have been the victim of the scam to contact the agency’s call center at 877-410-8809.

“If someone believes they have been the victim of an EBT scam they should contact our call center or come into one of our offices immediately to request their card be canceled,” Coan said. “They will receive a reissued card, and the old card will no longer be accessible.”

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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