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Agencies warn Texans of new Lone Star Card scam

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(The Center Square) – A new scam alert has been issued for millions of Texans using a Lone Star Card, which provides federal social welfare benefits administered by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

The commission issued the scam alert after it said an increasing number of complaints have been made about a phone scam targeting Lone Star Card users.

The Texas Electronic Benefit Transfer system uses the Lone Star Card to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food benefits and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash benefits.

More than 3.7 million people in Texas receive food assistance through SNAP, according to Every Texan.

The HHS Office of Inspector General reported that its Fraud Hotline has been getting 10-15 complaints a day about a new telephone scam using a “spoofing” technique. This involves a person or a prerecorded voice saying they are from the Lone Star Card Help Desk and ask for users’ personal, confidential information in order to commit theft.

Those who’ve reported receiving such calls say the caller ID shows the Lone Star Card’s Help Desk number, 800-777-7328, a valid number, although the call isn’t from that number. The caller asks for a Lone Star Card user’s PIN, Social Security number and date of birth claiming they need this information to provide them with new or increased benefits. Instead, the information can be used to steal users’ identity and benefits.

“As the OIG Fraud Hotline identifies new and increasingly sophisticated scams, we want Texans to be able to protect themselves against those attempts to steal their information,” HHS Inspector General Raymond Charles Winter said. “Regardless of what the caller ID says, do not provide any personal information in response to an unsolicited call.”

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which manages the Lone Star Card, does not call anyone by phone, text or email asking for their card number and PIN.

Anyone who might have fallen prey to such a scam is encouraged to immediately call the Lone Star Card Help Desk at 800-777-7328, report the fraudulent call to the HHS OIG at 800-436-6184, and contact their local law enforcement agency.

Anyone who lost benefits through the scam can request replacement benefits through their local HHSC office. Anyone with an immediate food assistance need is encouraged to contact their local food bank and can find one by calling 2-1-1 (select option 1) or go to 211Texas.org.

The HHS Lone Star Card Fraud Awareness and Prevention site provides safety tips for users. They include not writing the PIN on the card or card sleeve, never sharing it with anyone, and changing it once a month.

Users are encouraged to review purchases and frequently check their card balances by calling the Lone Star Help Desk using the Your Texas Benefits website or mobile app.

The alert comes after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has also warned Texans about scammers sending fraudulent emails using his name, signature, and official Office of the Attorney General Seal to obtain, steal and misuse personal information.

Scammers are using the official OAG seal while purporting to be from the U.S. Social Security Board. The emails warn Texans that their Social Security number will be suspended because they are being charged with a crime like drug trafficking, money laundering, theft or tax evasion. The fraudulent emails also instruct recipients to call a toll-free phone number and provide personal information.

Anyone who may have received such communication is encouraged to report it to the AG’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-800-621-0508, or online.

The Social Security Administration has also published extensive information and toolkits about scams to steal personal information that could lead to identity theft or other crimes.

The FTC has also published information, “What To Do if You Were Scammed,” to help consumers who might have paid money to a possible scammer or gave them access to their personal information, computer or phone.

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