Friday, April 29, 2011

LINK Cards Buy More Than Just Food At Target?

A reader writes in:
"I just witnessed something at Target Wilson Yard a little after 11:30am today that I found troubling. I was standing in line to pay for my purchases and a young woman was in front of me who was buying headphones to use with her Cricket smartphone. She pulled out a LINK card to pay for the headphones which I found interesting since I thought it could only be used for food and essential items. The first time the cashier swiped the card it only paid for $2.64 of the total $12.64 purchase. She then told the cashier that she needed to manually enter her number and ring it up as cash which then paid for the entire purchase. I was shocked to see this and even mentioned to the cashier that I sure could use one of those cards to buy headphones with. She smiled meekly. It is frustrating to see this. I hope Target watches for this a bit more closely in the future."


  1. They also get cash on Link cards-not only food stamps.

  2. Call the store, ask to speak with the General Manager..he wont know about it if you only post here...

    Chicago Wilson Yard
    Now with Fresh Grocery

    14466 N Broadway St
    Chicago, IL 60640
    (773) 596-2376

  3. I believe that if you have cash benefits in addition to SNAP benefits (SNAP is the food stamp portion) that you can use those cash benefits for whatever. They are supposed to be used for necessities though, clothes, household products, hygiene products, etc.)

    While people do use their benefits for things they shouldn't, please keep in mind these people are in the minority. Most people (and audits of the program show this) use their benefits for exactly what they are intended for.

  4. Molbop is right, some but not all LINK card beneficiaries get cash benefit as well.

    Related Fun Fact:

    LINK cards will be eligible for purchase at the Weiss Farmers Market starting this summer.

    No headphones will be for sale but better food for some people who really need it. More revenue for small farmers too....a great deal!

  5. @UU Reader - If you suspect fraud and your principles tell you to take action, you can report it here:

    Provide them with your information, and let them investigate.

    Additionally, if you suspect Target's systems are facilitating fraud, I am sure they would be interested.

    I don't know who particular programs work, but in the case that the particular program this individual was involved in allows the purchase of headphones, well that's a whole other story!

    There are several reasons why the State has moved to EBT vs. stamps, vouchers, and other coupons for benefit payments. Not only are they looking to prevent fraud and abuse, but they also want to allow those in need to use assistance discreetly and with dignity.

  6. I actually find it appalling that a customer is trying to regulate/investigate what another customer buys, just because they see a LINK card. You don't know their situation, you don't know their benefits, so why is it really any concern of yours?

  7. Things that may be considered 'assistive technologies' are almost always covered by the Link cash cards, too -- if someone's heard of hearing they may need those headphones.

  8. I could use a link card, anyone know where I can buy one?I need to see my tax money working...( for me)

  9. I think abuse of programs intended to help those truly in need is equally appalling and takes a hell of a lot of nerve, but we all know it happens too.

    If you can do something to make a change because it is the right thing to do, I say meddle in things that are not your business.

    It's none of your business that your neighbor in subsidized housing (that we all help pay for directly or indirectly) is violating the rules and allowing persons other than those named on the lease to reside there should we allow this abuse of housing programs meant to help those in need to continue right under our noses. I don't know...ask the residents most closely impacted by the violence a limited number of these guests bring to our community whether they think tighter enforcement of the rules might help the problem.

    It's going to take courageous acts of kindness, compassion, and the watchful eyes of community members to really clean up Uptown.

  10. And P.S. - I agree with LJ 100%. I admit I don't have the facts. I am just commentating, but I am done now....

  11. "I actually find it appalling that a customer is trying to regulate/investigate what another customer buys, just because they see a LINK card"

    I don't. Quite frankly, I'm tired of seeing the same guys in the store everyday buying stuff up with the link card, but doing nothing to get out of the situation that necessitated a link card in the first place! My next door neighbor basically lives off her link card, but she is never working or looking for a job. Not contributing to the community really in any way. So yes, from someone who works hard everyday to enjoy some spare change and a beer, I am a little miffed when I see people using subsidies that maybe, if they applied themselves, they wouldn't need in the first place. I'm all for social and economic assistance for people that need it; but it still doesn't negate that I have these feelings.

    And that's all they are, feelings; I do not have the answer to this problem, it's one of those seemingly unsolvable, never-ending circle of an issue. Anyone else feel this way sometimes? Or am I coming off as arrogant.

  12. As a social worker who deals with employment and economic issues of my clients, I completely understand the feelings. I have several clients who have lived in subsidized housing for 20+ years, have Link cards, free medical, etc., and are looking for the government to pay for employment training. When is it enough, and when should they be cut off?
    My problem with this posting is the assumption that this person is abusing the system (which is possible, that's not entirely out of the question). The perception of the poster, and I guess, the arrogance of it, really got me going. As someone mentioned, all of these are simply feelings and opinions and don't really matter to anyone else. For what that's worth.

  13. Check out what is going on with these Link cards at these small convenience stores, ex. S&L Pantry!! Anything you want to buy, cigarettes, cash back, no problem!! They'll take care of you!

  14. Un-bias, I'm sure one of the Lawrence House or Lorelai residents would be happy to sell your their Link card...

  15. U-60640,

    "and free medical"

    And yes, they run to the doctor and call an ambulance whenever they stub their toe or have a cold They they rip the cabinets out of the taxpayer-funded housing and SELL THEM.

    I've seen it myself.

  16. Oh, and then they have an Escalade. Hum.

  17. U-606040, the only one showing arrogance on here is you. You are damn right I am going to see what someone is using their LINK card for when I am behind them... you know why, because I work 60 hours a week and pay a boatload of taxes.. so, by extension, they are spending MY money... Yes u-60640, people who work pay for LINK... and I think arrogant social workers like you that act all uppity because a regular Joe sees abuse (and I assure you, buying headphones IS abuse) and gets mad about it. Oh yea, guess what, if you are a social worker that works for the govt, I pay your salary too... and I would like to see what you do all day.. got an issue with that?? Quit enabling and making excuses .... and start having some higher expectations of people..

  18. Sir,

    Easy there tough guy. Lay off the social workers. Everybody works and pays taxes fo things they don't like. You are the arrogant one, you do not get to say you pay someone's salary when your contribution is .000000000000000000001 percent of someone's salary. Public servants don't work for you personally.

    Social workers work long hours for less pay then you I am sure. They work in crap conditions with the lowest of the low for the benefit of all of us. They work to resolve these problems why you just complain about them. So take a long walk off a short pier.

  19. @ the social worker, you say you work with the lowest of the low? Hmmm, now that says alot about you personally. That's it for that. @c.p. I'm too paranoid to go past Leland, I might be attacked by all those bums that hang in front of the t.I.A. Building right on Lawerence and Sheridan.
    I guess the social workers in there must get some comp time or a stipend for keeping those worthless men in their program. Keep the federal tax money comming. Just give me a signature showing what I've done an your good right? That's why everyone comes to the north side for this so called assistance, FREE bus cards, FREE housing( shelters) FREE food, just come to uptown!! And live off tax payers!!! It's some B.S. If you ask me.

  20. Wow, there are lots of entitled know-it-all judgmental pricks commenting today.

    Who can also apparently see through walls and into people's minds to see what they do to find jobs and improve their situations.

    Also judging how they contribute to the community.

    I assume since I buy stuff from the corner store that I can FOLLOW EVERY EMPLOYEE to see that they are using MY MONEY that is used to pay their wages in a way that I JUDGE to be sufficient.

    OH and since I buy cigarettes, I expect to be able to look through EVERYONE of your houses to see that the property tax rebates my habit funds are being spent well.

    I also want a cut form every elderly person's painkillers obtained through the prescription drug plan those taxes fund.

    And if you're using Wi-Fi at ANY ESTABLISHMENT that I've EVER GONE TO, I expect a report of your internet history since I have funded part of that internet that you are using.

    "Sir," I expect your report to me in the morning.

  21. If only there'd been the same righteous indignation toward Bear Stearns, Lehmann Bros., Goldman Sacs, and AIG...

  22. "If only there'd been the same righteous indignation toward Bear Stearns, Lehmann Bros., Goldman Sacs, and AIG..."

    Last time I checked there was plenty of angst geared towards our financial institutions. I suppose ignoring that fits your narrative better though right? How many people do you know that have a favorable opinion of Wall Street? I don't know many, and I am a pretty die hard capitalist.

    As far as one citizen monitoring how the government redistributes his/her income I see no problem with it. "Big Brother" likes to check us out whenever it sees fit so I don't think it's to much to ask for the people to return the favor. In fact it is our duty to do so.

  23. Okay, enough hurling insults. If you want to have a discussion, cool. If you're just going to call each other names, stop it.

  24. @ Ingrid.....

    Unfortunately you are absolutely on point. The lion share of fraud with LINK happens in the little bodega-type stores like S-L Pantry. Even without fraud they have a limited selection of healthy choices and higher prices. In some areas (food deserts) they have no choice but to go bodega for groceries but we got better options in our Uptown right?

    Keep in mind whatever you may think about the adults the LINK benefit and to a lesser extent WIC is the only way some kids eat each day, its not a perfect program but beats the alternative which is hungry kids.

    I wish LINK was run a little more like WIC and restricted the eligible items to products with a nutritional value, in other words the very purpose of the program.

    With WIC for instance it is OK to buy Corn Flakes cereal but not Count Chocula or favorite. The healthy are wealthy.

    Just a few thoughts........

  25. Extreme view.
    Respond with another Extreme view.

    And so on.
    Link cards bought drugs
    at Rameys Foods in Evanston
    at Dodge and Simpson.

    Huge operation which took place this past year, they arrested 100 people, most from Evanston, some from Rogers Park.

    So yeah there is definitely Link Card Abuse. Im sure its going on at a decent level in Uptown as well. What percentage it is of everyone hopefully is small, but likely significant.

  26. I think I need to do some research on LINK cards. I'm sure there's abuse on all levels of government sponsored benefits.
    Common sense says, if anyone using a link card is buying electronic accessories (or booze or cigs) than that's an issue.
    That said, nobody wants to be in a position that they need LINK cards to survive.
    In my opinion, the soon to be former Alderman has created this kind of 'class warfare'.

    I'd rather have a 'questionable' use of a LINK card, then yet another gang shooting posting.

  27. I agree with U606. I think it's sad that one is looking into someones personal business while paying w/ a LINK. Do you people even realize the small amount a LINK card provides each month? Are Section-8 Housing really that nice? Are dirty, violent bug infested shelters really housing? Is being a street drug addict or wino really a life?

  28. There's outright abuse (buy cigarettes), then providing people the means to run in gangs, stay drunk, etc.

    It seems a single person can get $200/month on a link card (food stamps). Add free housing, health care, government cell phone, any any other welfare or entitlement payments allow them to live while gang, drug, and prostitution income is their discretionary income.

    I agree most people need and rely on these government benefits. It becomes a problem when the benefits become an incentive not to work and contribute to society.

    Has anyone done research or are there any statistics to show how much government money (fed, state, local) each gang member takes directly (link, welfare, etc)?

  29. People are always going to find ways around the system.

    "I'll buy you $20 worth of food for $20 worth of weed. Deal?"

    Fo sho.

  30. It's unfortunate to read all of the labeling and judgment happening here.

    We need to respond to the facts, not react to our delusions.

    This isn't about how hard "YOU" work, how "YOU" pay taxes, how "YOU" have the right to watch what other people buy.

    The fact is that someone purchased headphones with a Link card. I accept it because it happened.

    Now what can we do to help ensure it doesn't happen in the future. What's the next right action?

    Standing in judgment and labeling Link card holders as this or that only serves to enhance your false sense of self. When you judge others you are in essence judging yourself. Notice that.

  31. What's interesting is that LINK cards set up for only food stamps are very particular about what you can and cannot buy. Obviously, the card won't work if you buy things like liquor or cigarettes, but you also can't buy toothpaste, toilet paper, and other essential yet nonedible items.

    You can, however, buy "non-essential" food items like candy, pop, or ice cream with the LINK cards.

  32. As a probation officer , I have many families receiving LINK, Section 8 , and SSI payments .. Some families receive over $1000 a month in LINK, over $1000 in SSI and pay either a nominal amout for rent , if paying anything at all , often for a beautiful new apartment or townhouse., often with central air, washer , dryer and dishwasher .Factor in $11.300 a year for the cost of educating each child in the CPS and many families are already over $100,000 a year before you even add in arrest costs , court costs , probation costs , treatment costs , special education costs , etc . Many of these families are second, third and fourth generation welfare families where virtually no one has finished school , had a job or contributed anything to society . Many families will have child after child go thru the system .and yet no one is ever held accountable .I have had families where it is easy to see that they have received well over a million dollars in benefits over the years while child after child is arrested , doesn’t attend school and soon has children of their own.

  33. I'm not judging anyone that NEEDS a link card. For some it is a means of survival. BUT you have to get up an do somthing to better your self.
    Im not talking about mothers with children, people who lost their jobs or any other hurdle that comes with this life. I
    talking about people who abuse the system. I'm not heartless and arrogant, if you want somthing out of life you
    have to go get it. That's it that's all. Link cards and all other goverment programs should be a stepping stone not a life long crutch.

  34. The first comment is the only comment this thread needed to have. Cash benefits are paid via the LINK card. Cash benefits can be used for anything. You know. Like cash.

    So, should we be aiming in the direction of this proposed Minnesota legislation instead?

  35. I thought that the "old" welfare system (indefinite time frame with no work/job training requirement) went by the wayside in the Clinton years. I thought the new model was "Temporary Assistance to Needy Families" with the understanding that the parent(s) would have to get a job with in a certain amount of time. Judging by some of the comments here, that's not the case. What's going on here?

  36. I found an interesting article related to Link card abuse...

  37. I definitely get annoyed when I see a LINK card purchase at, say, 7-11, for packs of donuts, pop and the various crappy food they sell from their rotiseree thing -- mostly just because of how awful that stuff is for your body.

    But the thing that drives me FAR more nuts is that these foods could be purchased at Jewel for 1/2 the amount and at Aldi for 1/4 the amount. All for the low, low price of a 10 minute walk, round-trip...

    You'd think Frito Lay, Coca Cola and Little Debbie would all band together to do an educational campaign on where to shop in order to best stretch junk food dollars. The ROI for them would be huge.

  38. @ Gayle: There was a significant amount of reform in the Clinton years. Basically, the 3 main programs we think of as "welfare" are WIC (Most people are familiar w/this right?), TANF, which you mentioned, and SNAP, aka food stamps, the LINK card in Illinois. Here in Illinois, the application for TANF, SNAP, and a Medicaid card (known here as Family Care and All Kids) is all one app. TANF limits cash assistance to 48 months total to any adult over 18 during their lifetime. Months a parent draws TANF for their children do not count against that child's adult max benefits. The max benefit in Cook County is about $400/month, but I don't know how many people really receive that much. These benefits, along with the better known SNAP (food stamps) all go onto the LINK card each month. SNAP is not on a time limit so you can get it for your entire life. You also have to have children in your custody to get TANF (so custodial grandparents could get it, for example, but people w/o dependents cannot).
    I volunteer at a resource center in Uptown and one of the q's we ask in intakes is monthly income. I've been volunteering for 4 years and very rarely do I see someone getting cash benefits, even when they have no other income, so I think that most people must have often tapped that out when they come to us. Or, since lots of our clients come right after losing jobs, it could be that you have to have 0 income to get the cash benefits so they didn't previously qualify. But I digress. Hope this answered your q.

  39. Many who have link, especially females, also get a monthly cash allowance they are free to spend as they choose.

  40. Closely related story:
    I was at the Target last week and the man ahead of me was buying beer, maple syrup, milk, paper towels, maybe 12 various household and grocery items, and he pulls out a Tax Exempt letter and hands it to the cashier. She looked at it and checked him out without sales tax. I am almost certain these random items were NOT for resale.

  41. No welfare check or Link card if you can't pass a weekly drug test.

    Some will say the cost of testing is prohibitive, I say the savings will far outweigh the cost.

    Even if I only pay .00000000001 % of someone's salary, their salary is paid for by a million people like me; hard working, tax paying, self sufficient people who don't want these programs to allow lazy people to live off us. I am all for helping out in times of need.

  42. L-Train, your story may not be closely related. There may be other reasons for someone to have "tax exempt" status, other than purchasing goods for resale. For example, certain disabled veterans receive this benefit from the United States Government.

  43. The Tax Exempt letter produced in this instance was from Loyola University - clearly displayed by the checkout clerk as she typed it into the register inches away from me. Did not feel like the right usage of tax exempt status - per my gut instinct.

  44. ...I actually find it appalling that a customer is trying to regulate/investigate what another customer buys, just because they see a LINK card. You don't know their situation, you don't know their benefits, so why is it really any concern of yours?....

    YES it is, I work and help foot the bill for her headphones for a SMARTPHONE, while I who work can only afford a base model phone. Welfare is a safety net,(provided by the goodwill of the citizens and is NOT mandated by the Constitution)so people don't starve or freeze. Not to buy niceties and luxuries. And yes there is WIDESPREAD fraud. I could fill a page with all the scams used.

  45. L Train, if it was a Loyola letter he could have easily been buying for his office. Or it could have been a club advisor or member buying for an event? Potentially fishy in a whole other way though...

  46. I stayed at a "medical shelter" for a good part of 2009 and became well-versed in all the Link scams, most of the men who stayed with me had a person purchase Link cards on a percentage of "real money" for Link funds, and they bought cellphones, cigarettes and drugs with their earnings. In that shelter, most bad behavior was overlooked or condoned unless the "guest" was "out of favor" with the staff (, Jewish,or at least not Christian, etc) and then they'd get their chops busted over damn near anything. But my point is, yes, a lot of people misuse Link funds.

  47. I happened to find this after I was Googling. Christmas 2009 I was shopping with my mom at the Kmart in Bourbonnais when in front of us was a woman doing the same thing. She had a stack of electronics and trying to buy them via Link. Then she whipped out a stack of money and paid for the rest.

    This was especially bothersome because I am currently unemployed through no fault of my own and recently my unemployment ended. I used my unemployment to pay bills and outside of this have been a taxpayer since I was 16 (I am 4). I never considered abusing the money. In the past I lived in a low income area and saw a lot of welfare abuse.

  48. I stayed in a co-ed "medical" homeless shelter and it was actively encouraged for the "guests" to get Link.
    Most of them knew how to sell their link (usually 7-10, seven dollars for ten LINK dollars) and bought themselves cellphones and cell service, also booze.
    The staff seemed to be shocked that I was using LINK for its intended purpose, food.

  49. While these particular abuses may be true on the whole the great majority of the funds are spent on food.

    That is just a fact.

    The "controversy" over food stamps/LINK is way overblown, out of scale from collective reality and loaded with all kinds of personal perceptions.

    I try to imagine the alternative...the USA without a food/nutrition program...its not pretty.

  50. I will say this – You have an absolute right, and even one might say a duty, to inspect the government that is there to serve you. But you do NOT have a right to inspect another person! Despite your justifications of why you are correct, they are just that…justifications. Do you want to live in a society that allows to justify actions? Today you justify inspecting and judging a person at a cash register because he/she uses a link card. Tomorrow someone will justify inspecting you because you drive a big pickup truck or have no health insurance even that you can afford one. In a principle there is no difference. If you disagree with a policy, go after those who allowed for it, because they are in a position to change it. I am strongly against any welfare programs, but going after people who simply have their hands out, makes no sense. For years they have been taught to rely on the government. Their only responsibility was to go and vote for those who will “take care of things”. People are highly adaptable to their environment so go and change that environment which incentivizes idleness!

  51. Snap judgments about someone in the check out line in front of us are not very judicious on anyone's part. We have no way of knowing the facts and circumstances of that individual's life. What a ludicrous presumption. At any rate, all food and cash benefit purchases are recorded, and if the use were inappropriate, the state would already have a record of it. There is no need for ignorant bystanders with no knowledge of another person's life situation to police the buying habits of a state benefits recipient, or to slander and liable them in an online forum. If you have a job, good health, insurance, and can participate in the system and pay taxes, perhaps you should just be grateful you don't have the need of drawing benefits out of what you have paid into the federal reserve. With the administration crying bankruptcy, chances are you would get little or nothing, and I'm betting you would not trade places with that person in front of you. "There but for the grace of God, go I." As for fraud, waste and abuse, judging from the downtown beer, liquor, and other deleterious substance licenses, the population of Chicago wastes more cash flow on alcohol, tobacco, and firearms than a benefits recipient buying a pair of earphones for work, school, or personal recreation ever would, and costs the system far more in health care calamity. When is the last time you heard about earphones causing a DUI accident, or lung cancer, or an E/R visit? SNAP benefit recipients as a class would not take the award for most idle, or the most problematic group of people in that regard. And d'ats da truth.

  52. I just read about the Link card and yes you can also receive any cash benifits on your Link card and get cash back at stores as long as you have cash balance as well as food stamps....but agree that cash benifits should not include head phones or any none nessessity(sp?)