Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

U.S. Secret Service Operation Targets EBT Fraud

Published By
U.S. Secret Service Media Relations
Published Date


WASHINGTON – In coordination with our law enforcement partners, the United States Secret Service conducted “Operation April Fools” in San Diego and Oakland, Calif., targeting transnational organized crime organizations engaged in Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) fraud.

The multi-day operation resulted in seven arrested and charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California and three arrested and charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.

“EBT fraud continues to be an issue in California and throughout the nation,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael Peck, U.S. Secret Service Office of Investigations, said. “The U.S. Secret Service will continue to investigate and arrest those responsible for EBT fraud as we seek to disrupt their networks and protect our most vulnerable communities.”

Criminals steal EBT card information by installing electronic devices on ATMs, gas station pumps, or merchant point-of-sale (POS) terminals to capture card information, which is commonly referred to as skimming. The Secret Service and its law enforcement partners have observed an increase in nationwide point-of-sale and ATM skimming related activity over the past 18-24 months. This is due in part to the targeting of EBT debit cards lacking chip technology. Criminals use skimming to capture card information from EBT cards and then encode that data onto another card with a magnetic strip, such as a hotel key.

Consumers can take steps to prevent their EBT or debit cards from being skimmed.

  • Inspect ATMs, POS terminals, and other card readers before using. Look for anything loose, crooked, damaged, or scratched.
  • Cover your hand when entering your PIN. Scammers sometimes use tiny pinhole cameras, situated above the keypad area, to record PIN entries. Use ATMs in a well-lit, indoor location, which are less vulnerable targets.
  • Be alert for skimming devices in tourist areas, which are popular targets.
  • Use cards with chip technology. In the U.S., there are fewer devices that steal chip data versus magnetic strip data.
  • Contact your financial institution if the ATM doesn't return your card after you end or cancel a transaction.

# # #