UPDATED with what to do if you threw out your stimulus-payment debit card. This story was originally published May 29, 2020.
Don't throw out that stimulus check. Unfortunately, that's exactly what some people are doing because they think it's a scam.
The confusion arises because for some the stimulus payment comes in the form of a generic debit card, in a plain white envelope, from a company called "Money Network Cardholder Services" of Omaha, Nebraska.
The card has a close-up of the American flag as the background image, but there is no indication anywhere on the card or the envelope that it's an official U.S. government product.
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"My husband looked at it, briefly read it and he said, 'Do you want this?' And I said, 'I don't need another fake card,' so he cut it up in little pieces," Bonnie Moore of Englewood, Florida, told WINK-TV. "The next thing you see is I am in the garbage can trying to pull out all of the pieces together, which did not work."
"I almost threw mine out with the junk mail," tweeted Zack Stanton, an editor at Washington, D.C.-based news website Politico.
No idea if this is any indication of others' experiences with their coronavirus stimulus money, but I almost threw mine out with the junk mail: 1. The return address was "Money Network Cardholder Services," no indication it's from the govt/U.S. Treasury. pic.twitter.com/Af2dBPl9oFMay 22, 2020
But believe it or not, the scammy-looking debit card is the real deal. Possibly anticipating confusion, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a FAQ online explaining that "this is not a scam."
"Your Economic Impact Card will come in a plain envelope from 'Money Network Cardholder Services' along with important information about the card, instructions for activation, fees, and a note from the U.S. Treasury," says the FAQ, although it sounds like the note might not always be there. "The card itself will have the words 'VISA' and 'DEBIT' on the front and the issuing bank, 'MetaBank, N.A.', on the back."
Instructions on how to activate and use your stimulus-payment debit card are at eipcard.com. But here's the gist: after receiving the card, taxpayers will need to call 1-800-240-8100 to verify their identities. After setting your PIN and signing the back of the card, you should be able to use the stimulus payment card as you would any other debit card.
If you're still unsure whether the card you received is your stimulus check, you can use the IRS's Get My Payment app to track the progression of your payment in the system. When you fill out a short form with your personal information, the free online tool will tell you if your check has been sent or delivered.
Similarly the USPS's Informed Delivery service offers stimulus check notifications, so you can know exactly when your payment has been placed in your mailbox.
What to do if you threw out your stimulus-payment debit card
Fortunately, there's an easy way to get another stimulus-payment debit card if you threw out or cut up the original card.
Simply call the toll-free number listed above -- 1-800-240-8100 -- and ask for a replacement card.
There's technically a $7.50 fee for this, but a Treasury Department spokeswoman told The Washington Post that the fee would be waived for first-time requests. However, you may have to pay $17 if you want the replacement card sent via Priority Mail.
It helps if you happen to know the card number on the original card when you call the toll-free number. If not, you will have to wait for a human operator. One card recipient told USA Today that she gave up waiting for a human and instead wrote a letter.
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Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at FoxNews.com, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.