‘I was shocked’: Crook steals $281 from McNairy County woman’s EBT card

MCNAIRY COUNTY, Tenn. — Carolyn McAlpine wasn’t expecting her EBT card to decline at the checkout of a Dollar General store in McNairy County.

“I thought it might have been the card scanner,” she explained. “I went to another store, but the same thing happened.”

When she returned home, the 64-year-old discovered her benefits for the month were stolen.

“I was shocked because I had never used my card to make any online purchases,” McAlpine explained.

There was a $281 charge to her account from ‘Throop Farm Market’ in New York. Multiple people across the country have experienced similar theft from the same business name, according to an online search.

“I think about all the people that have little children,” McAlpine said. “I can survive.”

“It’s sad that you are stealing from families during the holiday season,” wrote a woman on Google reviews.

“That was my only food money for my baby,” wrote a woman on Yelp.

It’s not clear whether there is a legitimate business operating under that name. The market is listed in Brooklyn, but there is no working phone number.

A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Human Services could not speak to McAlpine’s specific theft but did say the office is investigating EBT theft from card skimming.

“We are working with our federal partners and law enforcement authorities to determine next steps, including whether or not we will be allowed to reissue stolen benefits,” she wrote.

How does card skimming work? Thieves can place devices on card readers to read the information off of cards during checkout.

“Be aware of your surroundings,” warned the owner of One Point Solutions, a local cybersecurity firm. “If anything doesn’t look right, especially with your credit card - buyer beware.”

He warned consumers to carefully inspect the devices on ATMs and at check-outs. Use a chip whenever possible. Larger stores might have more security, but they can also be greater targets for criminals.

“If there’s anything that’s loose on the card reader or anything that looks like it’s attached that shouldn’t be there, that’s kind of the first warning sign,” he explained. “It’s really hard to stay in front of these criminals.”