Q: I got a card identified as from Money Network Cardholder Services that is allegedly my stimulus payment. Is this legitimate? Why was it sent as a card instead of a check?

S.B.

Answer: SAM has gotten several questions from readers recently who received the Economic Impact Payment (EIP) in the form of a debit card and are concerned it may be a scam. It is a legitimate way the Treasury is sending out some of the stimulus payments from the CARES Act, especially to “qualified individuals without bank information on file with the IRS, and whose tax return was processed by either the Andover or Austin IRS Service center,” according to a statement from the Treasury.

Treasury has already delivered more than 140 million EIPs, worth $239 billion, to Americans by direct deposit to accounts at financial institutions, Direct Express card accounts, and by check. According to Treasury, the EIP card “is another method to provide money efficiently and securely to eligible recipients and their families.”

MetaBank, Treasury’s financial agent, began mailing out EIP cards to eligible recipients last week, with instructions on how to activate and use the card. People can use EIP cards to make purchases anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted, in-store, online or by phone, including paying bills; get cash from in-network ATMs; and transfer funds to their personal bank account without incurring fees, according to the statement. The card arrives in a plain envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services and has the Visa logo.

More information about the program can be found at EIPCard.com, and there is a FAQ there to provide further assistance. If you have any concerns, you can contact their customer service line at 800-240-8100, where you can also activate the card, set your four-digit PIN and get your balance. And yes, to answer another question that has come in from several readers, you will need to enter part of your Social Security number for identification. It is not connected to your bank account.

AARP has some more tips and a photo of the card at www.aarp.org/money/taxes/info-2020/stimulus-payment-debit-cards.html.

“Naturally, where there is money, there are people looking to take it, and your card is no exception,” according to AARP. “Make sure you have a secure PIN, and don’t give it to anyone. Beware of online phishing scams trying to get your card number and PIN. If you think someone has made an unauthorized purchase, call the toll-free number.”

Among the scams to be wary of:

  • A caller who uses the words “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment,” since the official term government officials use is “economic impact payment.”
  • Anyone asking you to sign over a check to a caller.
  • A message by email, text or social media saying you need to verify your personal or banking information to “speed up your stimulus payment.”
  • Anyone offering to get you your payment faster.

You can find even more information about the payment program from the IRS at www.irs.gov/coronavirus-tax-relief-and-economic-impact-payments.

Email: AskSAM@wsjournal.com

Online: journalnow.com/asksam

Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101 

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