Florida should get tougher on welfare abuse, fraud

May 25, 2013 

One aspect of welfare fraud and abuse is particularly maddening -- recipients misusing or selling Electronic Benefits Transfer cards.

Just this year, the Legislature passed a bill banning the use of EBT cards in gambling and pari-mutuel facilities as well as adult entertainment establishment. The measure was sent to Gov. Rick Scott this week.

This no-brainer legislation should have come a long time ago.

Just as egregious, though, is welfare recipients selling their EBT cards for less than face value, often at 50 to 60 cents on the dollar.

All the seller has to provide the buyer is the card's personal identification number to make purchases like a debit card.

Retailers are not required to verify the identity of the cardholder, a major flaw in the system.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office conducted a big undercover sting three weeks ago that bagged dozens of suspects on welfare fraud charges -- both sellers and buyers of the cards.

This week MSO deputies briefed state officials on the sting and suggested stronger laws to prevent this abuse -- by ensuring the person swiping the card is the one granted the taxpayer-funded welfare benefit. Cards with picture identification was one idea along with a verification requirement of retailers.

The state should adopt these ideas. Taxpayers have been angry about welfare cheats for years, demanding reforms. Like this year's legislative action, this is a no-brainer, too.

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