Don’t toss that debit card—it’s your stimulus paymentMar 25, 2021 11:55AM ● By Heather Lawrence
Some stimulus payments came as debit cards, but many Utahns reported them to the BBB as a scam because they were expecting a paper check or direct deposit. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)
By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]
After the government announced its second stimulus payment, people eagerly awaited their funds. Most got them as paper checks or direct bank deposits, but others were sent stimulus prepaid debit cards in the mail, leading them to wonder if they were a scam.
“We heard from many people through emails and calls. Usually when you get ‘free money’ in the mail, it’s a scam. I’m glad people are cautious, but this time it just happened to be real,” said Britta Clark, communications director for the Better Business Bureau of Northern Nevada and Utah.
Clark’s department released a statement on Jan. 26 to get the word out that the pre-loaded debit cards were legitimate and people should not throw them away.
Clark thinks the confusion happened in part because payments were staggered and came throughout January. The different payment formats added to the confusion.
“Please note that the form of payment for the second mailed EIP may be different than for the first mailed EIP. Some people who received a paper check last time might receive a debit card this time, and some people who received a debit card last time may receive a paper check,” the IRS wrote on their website.
Clark got reports of people throwing their envelopes away (then retrieving them) or letting them pile up for days with the junk mail. Some said it looked promotional instead of official. Others were suspicious of the plain white envelope, and the generic sounding “Economic Stimulus” or “MetaBank.”
“The government told us what to look for on a legitimate card. They would come in a white envelope with the U.S. Treasury seal, there would be a welcome kit, Visa would be on the front of the card, and the issuing bank, MetaBank, would be on the back,” Clark said.
“Something from the government should have information about a reliable website so you can research it. There should be a number you can call if you have questions and some kind of official seal.
“You can also do a Google search to see if any news agencies have reported on it or if the government has issued any statements. And of course you can call us at 801-892-6009,” Clark said.
Ty Nielsen of Bluffdale did just that. Nielsen got his debit card in the mail on a Friday afternoon. The BBB was closed, so he left a message and submitted a BBB scam tracker report.
“I was watching for a paper check because that’s what I got last spring. I don’t think this form of payment was communicated very well, so that raised some red flags,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen reached out to local news stations and was interviewed by Matt Gephardt of KSL to inform people about the debit cards.
“I’ve seen a lot of scams on Facebook and we all get those credit card offers in the mail, so that’s what I thought this was. The BBB returned my phone call, and when I took the card to the credit union they told me it was real,” Nielsen said.
Once recipients confirm the card is legitimate, they must activate it so the funds are accessible.
“Once the card has been verified, you should activate it by calling the number provided, set a PIN number, sign the card, keep it in a safe place and don’t share the information on the card with anyone,” Clark said.
Clark also said to watch out for scammers who call after the fact, asking for information about your debit card. “We wouldn’t be surprised to see scams where people try to get you to give them your card information so they can take a piece of that stimulus.”
Anyone who threw away their card thinking it was a scam or junk mail can call 1-800-240-8100 to report the card as lost or stolen.