MILLIONS of stimulus checks sent out by the government in the form of debit cards could be targeted by scammers, according to a new warning.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury Department on Wednesday reported that more than 159million people in the US have received coronavirus stimulus payments.
Of those payments, four million were sent out in the form of a pre-paid debit card.
But according to AARP, a non-profit organization that works with Americans age 50 and older, scammers could access the money on the card before you do.
"Scammers will look for every opportunity to get between you and that money," Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention at AARP, told WLS-TV.
She said that when you receive the government letter with the Visa debit card, call 1-800-240-8100 to active the card and create a PIN number.
Stokes said that if you’re just one number off from the number on the letter, you could be calling a fake hotline run by scammers who are looking to get the Visa card numbers.
"There is the concern that they will pretend to be the bank, or they will pretend to be the IRS, and they will call or text or email and say, 'Hey, just want to make sure you got that card.”
“Why don't you give me the pin or the debit card number itself or your Social Security Number just to verify,'" Stokes said scammers could potentially say.
"Scammers are around all the time doing horrible things. We are in the middle of a pandemic, we are in the middle of one of the biggest economic downturn any of us have experienced, we are in desperate need of this money."
Stokes also warned that the debit cards are being sent out in plain envelopes, which people might think is junk mail and could throw out.
"People are getting these nondescript envelopes and with their Economic Impact Payment loaded onto a debit card, not getting that that is what it is, and tossing it, thinking it is a scam," Stokes said.
The IRS said that people will be able to identify the cards by their Visa logo, and by the name "MetaBank" on the back of the card.
If anyone has unintentionally thrown out their stimulus debit card, Americans can call 1-800-240-8100 to have it replaced for a small fee.
The rollout of the prepaid cards as an alternative to paper checks was announced last month in an effort to get some hard-hit Americans their coronavirus stimulus money more quickly.
The IRS has stopped distributing stimulus checks via direct deposits.
Everyone who has yet to receive their money should expect it in the form of either a paper check or one of the new prepaid debit cards.
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