6. Power Outage Affects Food Stamps in 17 States
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is known colloquially as "food stamps," uses Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to allow recipients to purchase food using their government benefits. In 2013, Xerox was hosting the EBT systems for 17 states in its data centers.
On October 12, 2013, Xerox was conducting routine tests of its backup systems when a glitch caused the entire EBT system to go offline. For several hours on a busy Saturday, retailers had no way to determine the balances that shoppers had available on their EBT cards. As a result, some stores simply stopped accepting EBT cards, leading to some very unhappy customers. In other cases, the stores allowed benefits recipients to use their EBT cards anyway, even though the store had no way to know how much money the customers had left to spend. In some locations, shoppers took advantage of the situation, loading their carts with thousands of dollars' worth of food. Police were called in several states to quell "mini-riots," and the government later charged some of those shoppers with fraud.