Electronic Benefits Transfer:

Use of Biometrics to Deter Fraud in the Nationwide EBT Program

OSI-95-20: Published: Sep 29, 1995. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined options for reducing fraud in the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) environment, focusing on the use of biometrics to verify recipients' identities and reduce the potential for fraud.

GAO found that: (1) some states and localities have used biometrics to deter fraud in their welfare benefit programs and have realized major cost savings by requiring program applicants to submit to electronic fingerprinting during enrollment; (2) electronic fingerprinting may be the most viable option for deterring fraud in an EBT environment, since it has been universally accepted and has proven to be reliable; (3) fingerprinting benefit applicants during enrollment would eliminate losses related to duplicate benefits payments; (4) fingerprint verification during benefit disbursement would directly link withdrawals to recipients and help resolve potential losses and increased costs; and (5) the use of biometrics in an EBT environment should be tested before nationwide expansion of the EBT program.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of the Treasury's Financial Management Service has developed a long-term plan to study and explore the potential for use of biometrics in connection with the implementation of electronic benefits systems.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should develop, if feasible, a biometric verification system, such as electronic fingerprinting, for use in an EBT environment. The use of biometrics should be assessed in a limited area, such as the Southern Alliance of States, and prior to the expansion of the EBT program nationwide.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury


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