To better protect California Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cardholders, the State of California is releasing a new mobile phone app called ebtEDGE on Friday, November 10, 2023 (available free from the Apple App Store for iPhone or the Google Play Store for Android devices).
CalFresh food aid (also known as SNAP) helps thousands of low-income residents put food on the table. The benefits are provided on a debit card known as an EBT card. Recipients simply swipe the EBT card and enter their PIN at the supermarket checkout, similar to an ATM card.
Unfortunately, there are thieves who steal benefits from this vulnerable population. Often, theft rings will attach skimmers to point-of-sale devices, enabling them to steal people’s card numbers and PINs and drain their accounts. The USDA says roughly 1% of the money paid out is stolen from recipients.
The ebtEDGE app will provide EBT cardholders with security features to protect their money. Users will be able to view their benefits balance and transactions, freeze and unfreeze their EBT card, change their card’s PIN, block internet and out-of-state transactions, and check their transaction history. Biometric access through touch ID or facial recognition can be enabled for secure login.
An ebtEDGE online portal (website) will also be available, offering similar features to the app. Clients who log in to the existing ebt.ca.gov portal (https://www.ebt.ca.gov/cardholder/) will be redirected to the ebtEDGE portal once it goes live.
Beginning in April 2024, another layer of protection will be added when the state begins a phased rollout of chip-equipped (EMV/tap) cards. A chip-equipped card transmits a unique code for every purchase instead of transmitting the card’s real number, making the card almost impossible to clone by thieves using a skimmer.
Here are some additional tips to keep your card secure that everyone can use:
- Keep your EBT card number and PIN a secret. Don’t share it with anyone.
- Cover your hand while typing in your PIN, to protect your PIN from hidden cameras.
- Inspect the card reader. If the keypad feels loose or misaligned, there may be a skimmer attached to it.
- Try to change your PIN the day before your benefits become available, every month.
- If you get a text or email about your EBT card, don’t click any links. The county and state will never call, email, or text you asking for your card number and PIN.
- Watch out for suspicious websites