South Carolina is one of seven states that was recently selected by the federal government to help find new ways to combat food stamp fraud, the S.C. Department of Social Services announced this week.

In December, more than 855,000 residents in South Carolina received a combined $104.2 million in benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Richland County residents received more benefits than any other county in the state. Greenville and Charleston counties were second and third.

Very few food stamp recipients abuse the system, the department estimates.

During the first six months of 2013, data provided by the department shows that 311 clients intentionally provided false information on their applications for food stamp benefits, costing the program $912,285.

"We are successful at getting almost all of this money back," said DSS spokeswoman Kathleen Goetzman.

Forty-five cases were referred to the Solicitor's Office for prosecution between January and October last year.

The new federal program will allow the state to use "technology-based consultation services" to make sure residents applying for food stamp benefits actually qualify for them.

"These new technology services, intended to prevent, identify and stop fraud, waste and abuse in the SNAP food stamp program, are at no additional cost to South Carolina taxpayers," said Karama Bailey, economic services county operations division director for the S.C. Department of Social Services.

California, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kansas and Texas have also been selected to participate.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.