Hot Topic: LINK Card Fraud

By: Lauren Kravets
By: Lauren Kravets

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The comments are pouring in; many say LINK card recipients don't really need the help and say they're abusing the system.

In fact more than 3,000 people have been convicted in Illinois so far this year. But that equals less that one percent.

If someone is fraudulently using LINK cards, they're automatically disqualified from the program and have to pay back that money. But the Illinois Department of Human Services is working to stop that.

"You have to come up for re-certification, those are measures that are put in place to help prevent fraud... We also go off of tips that we get not only off our help line but our local offices. The food stamp program is actually a lengthy interview process," explains Marielle Sainvilus, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Services.

One viewer says fraud is far from her mind, she writes, "I have LINK and both my husband and myself work and I go to school full time. We have a child and unfortunately with our income sometimes we can't afford food," says online name, nen2reesecups.

And food and some drinks are all those on food stamps can buy.

"They are not allowed to buy alcohol and cigarettes with SNAP or with food stamps," says Sainvilus.

And despite the stereotype, food stamps aren't just for low-income anymore, especially during a tough economy.

"A lot of middle class families are finding themselves having to use food stamps as well."

A middle class family might be eligible for food stamps if a member recently lost his or her job. And to clarify, a LINK card can have more than just food stamp money on it; it can also have cash benefits. In those cases, a person can actually use it at the ATM and withdraw cash to temporarily pay bills and buy clothes. But again, the Department of Human Services says they're watching closely for purchases that are not allowed.

To report link card fraud, contact the Illinois Link Help Line at 1-800-678-LINK (5465).

You can view the original story and comments here.

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