What to do with a SNAP Trafficking Charge Letter
So, if you’re reading this you have probably received a SNAP Trafficking Charge Letter. The first thing to do is call our offices or fill out an e-mail consultation form. Though it sounds self-serving for me to tell you to call me, we offer free consultations with no obligation. Too many of my clients pick up the phone and call the USDA immediately. Often, they say mistakenly say something that may be used against them by the USDA. So, rather than risk a mistake, our office can advise you as to what your rights are and how the process works.
Though, in my experience over the years, the Department’s personnel are friendly and helpful, they’re using your words against you. For example, I had a client who called, informed the Department that if any trafficking had occurred, it must have been one of his employees. The USDA determined that this meant the store did traffick in food stamps, just because the owner acknowledged it was possible. Don’t lose your business to careless wording.
What does the SNAP Trafficking Charge Letter mean?
These letters are automatically generated by the United States Department of Agriculture. Each letter is automatically sent out to a SNAP retailer when one (or more) things happen:
- The ALERT system (USDA’s computer program) detected a number of transactions that were “unusually large.” I have seen transactions in this category for as little as $9.00, and for as much as $350.00. What precisely qualifies as “too large” isn’t particularly clear though, as the USDA doesn’t have a set of rules for that. Generally speaking, most of these transactions are $25.00 or more. You can expect that every transaction your store makes in an amount of $40.00 or more is included on this list.
- The USDA also flags transactions that end in the same cents value. For example, transactions that all end in zero cents (.00) will often make this list. However, the USDA doesn’t send out a SNAP trafficking charge letter on this until your store reaches a limit. Though the limit seems to vary, it is usually around 100 transactions in three months. The “same cents” value can be any number, so long as it is repeated in a high frequency.
- The ALERT system will flag transaction series that occur in what the Department deeps “too short of a timeframe”. Again, there is no rule on what constitutes “too short.” Typically the USDA only includes transactions occurring within 36 hours. Often, a SNAP trafficking charge letter will include several sets of these transactions, ranging from a few minutes apart to more than a day. There’s no indication as to what timeframe the Department finds appropriate.
- A high volume of manual entry transactions (as opposed to swipe) also repeatedly show up in USDA SNAP trafficking charge letters. The Department believes that these transactions show that the EBT card is not present, and therefore is fraudulent.
What should you do with the SNAP Trafficking Charge Letter?
Aside from immediately calling my office, you should set to work gathering transaction receipts, invoices and other documents. Your first deadline is ten (10) days after you receive the letter. If you miss this deadline, you will almost always be disqualified.