Craig Gima
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

IRS stimulus payments arriving as debit cards, rather than U.S. Treasury checks, are causing confusion among some recipients. The IRS mailed approximately 4 million prepaid debit cards, known as Economic Impact Payment or EIP cards, to people who did not provide electronic deposit information to the IRS.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is reporting an increase in calls asking if the debit cards are legitimate and if recipients should be sharing their Social Security number to activate it.

The cards arrive in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” The Visa name appears on the front of the EIP card, and the back of the card has the name of the issuing bank, MetaBank, N.A.

Some callers reported they did not realize the card was from the government and thought it was junk mail or a scam card, because they did not ask for it.

Activating the card requires that you call 1-800-240-8100 and give your address and the last six digits of your Social Security number. You will also be asked to create a PIN.

You can generally use the card without a fee anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. However, some ATMs and out-of-network withdrawals incur fees. For example, you’ll pay 25 cents for each balance inquiry request at an ATM, and $2 for each out-of-network withdrawal after your first one. You’ll also pay $7.50 for a lost or stolen card.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network also warns that anytime money is involved and there is confusion, scammers will likely try to take advantage of it.

“Do not give your PIN, EIP debit card number or Social Security number to anyone that calls you or texts you asking to verify the receipt of your card,” said AARP Hawai`i State Director Keali‘i Lopez.

“Make sure to fully read the terms and conditions included in the card to understand how it will operate and where you can use it for transactions,” Lopez advised.

Here are some tips from AARP’s Fraud Watch Network for using the cards:

  • You’ll get a letter with the EIP card telling you how to activate it. Be very careful that you call the correct phone number.
  • Don’t search the Internet for the number. Scammers sometimes set up fake customer service numbers to deceive people and take their personal information.
  • Don’t give your personal identification number (PIN), EIP debit card number or Social Security number to anyone who calls or texts you.
  • Check your mail carefully to avoid tossing your EIP card out with your junk mail.

If you’ve destroyed or thrown out your EIP card, call the toll-free customer service line at 800-240-8100 (TTY: 800-241-9100) to ask for a replacement. You can find additional information at the official EIP website, including information on how to transfer the funds from the EIP card to your personal checking or savings account.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free “watchdog alerts,” review our scam-tracking map or call our toll-free fraud help line at (877) 908-3360 if you suspect a loved one or yourself has been a victim of fraud.


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