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Store security breach shuts down 4,800 child support EPPICards

For nearly 5,000 Californians with electronic child support accounts through the California Department of Child Support Services, a security breach shut down access to their money at one of the worst possible times: just before Christmas. According to a DCSS spokesperson, a suspected security breach at a grocery store prompted EPPICard, the company operating the state’s child support debit cards, to deactivate them as safety measure.

One mom whose EPPICard was deactivated told CBS Sacramento she was notified on Dec. 14 via an automated call. Unfortunately, the recording said she wouldn’t be able to access the account at all until she received a new EPPICard — which might take as long as a week and a half. She was completely cut off from the money just before Christmas.

“This is income that I count on,” she told reporters. “I had kids to get to school…I had no gas…no food.”

Her new card did arrive on Dec. 19, which was a relief. Unfortunately, she had been forced to pawn belongings to care for her children, two of whom suffer from heart conditions.

The CBS Sacramento reporters contacted both EPPICard and DCSS but were unable to obtain specific information as to the exact nature of the security breach, what grocery store was involved, or whether the accounts affected were limited to the Sacramento area or affected child support recipients statewide.

“Certainly we were unhappy to get the news that EPPICards had been deactivated,” DCSS said in a statement. “We were pleased, however, that EPPIC took prompt security measures.”

The mom in Sacramento feels she has been left with lots of unanswered questions. “I want to know where this happened, how it happened and what’s going to be done to prevent it,” she said.

It’s certainly better for security breaches to be caught quickly, before money begins to disappear from the accounts, even if that means some inconvenience to cardholders. Yet surely there must be some way to allow access to the child support account without the debit card, particularly for families whose basic financial stability depends on that income. There’s room for improvement in the process.

If you believe your EPPICard account may have been tampered with, you should notify DCSS right away, even if you haven’t been notified of a problem. If you’re having trouble collecting the child support you are owed, you can contact a private attorney for help.

Source: CBS Sacramento, “Security Breach Leaves Thousands Of Calif. Families Without Child Support Money,” Maria Medina, Dec. 20, 2013