Scammers know most folks will go to great lengths to cash in on “free money.” With the U.S. Department of Treasury sending out stimulus payments, known as Economic Incentive Payments (EIP) to 4 million Americans through a debit card, folks need to be on their toes. VISA cards arrive in a plain envelope from Meta Bank and “Money Network Cardholder Services” and require your Social Security Number to activate. And that’s the rub.
Any time money is involved, scammers will come up with new ways to grab it. Veterans and military families are twice as likely as civilians to be targeted by con artists. Now that these debit cards have hit mailboxes, scammers use this opportunity to try and steal both your money and personal identity.
Don’t toss this stimulus card in the trash: it truly is a cash-loaded debit card from the federal government. However, be very careful about how you activate your card. Be sure you call the correct telephone number listed on the letter attached to the card. Do not use a number you find on an Internet search. Scammers place fake customer service phone numbers online to deceive people into calling their bogus boiler rooms instead of the actual number to reach Meta Bank’s activation services.
Do not give your PIN, EIP debit card number or Social Security number to anyone who calls or texts asking to verify receipt of your card. Make sure to fully read the terms and conditions included in the card’s instructions to understand how it will operate and where you can use it for transactions.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network and Operation Protect Veterans initiative has received numerous reports of COVID-19 treatment scams, fake charity pitches claiming to help veteran and military families, as well as phishing scams trying to steal one’s personal identity, financial information, and even Veterans Administration benefits. Don’t let a stimulus debit card scheme be the next.
According to the Treasury Department’s affiliated Money Network website, www.eip.com, this is what you should see: “Your Economic Impact Payment Card contains the money you are receiving as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The EIP Card is sponsored by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service as part of the US Debit Card Program.” The message then details how to activate and use the card.
Be safe. Be vigilant. Don’t let scammers cash out your stimulus card and steal your personal identity. To report suspicious activity or receive assistance from certified fraud counselors, you can call AARP’s toll-free Fraud Watch Helpline (1-877-908-3360).
Broiles, of Oklahoma City, is a U.S. Army veteran and an AARP volunteer.
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