Food stamps sold online is growing problem

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WASHINGTON —

Americans receiving food stamps are getting caught trying to trade or sell their benefits online.

As food assistance programs grow, so does food stamp fraud. 

The crime is also happening in Jacksonville, where an ad offered to trade food stamps for a van or a place to sleep.

A new federal report found a Craigslist post in Charlotte, North Carolina, offering beer in exchange for SNAP benefits, the formal name for food stamps. Those are your tax dollars funding the $76 billion program.

“In a time like this, when there's such an increase in numbers and we are under this kind of fiscal stress, it's all the more important that we have good strong controls in place to prevent fraud,” said Kay Brown, with the Government Accountability Office.

Action News found nearly a dozen examples of food stamp fraud online. One ad is from a woman in Orlando offering $100 in food stamps for $75; she claims the money is to keep her lights on.

A post in Atlanta offered $100 in food stamps for $65 cash.

“In some cases people had goods or services, like even artwork, and they were offering to trade that for SNAP benefits,” said Brown.

The Government Accountability Office went over records from 11 states. States are required to monitor and fight fraud but leaders say there's not enough manpower.

In Florida alone, for every one investigator there are more than 19,000 food stamp recipients.

According to Craigslist’s terms of use, selling food stamps is not allowed, but unless the post is flagged several times there’s not much the website administrators can do.

The food assistance program has grown 40 percent with the recession. Last year, there were 47 million people enrolled. In 2009, there were 33 million.