FTC tries to clear up confusion surrounding stimulus payments on debit cards

Photo (c) Feverpitched - Getty Images

Scammers are ready to swoop in and prey on the confusion

Confusion continues to exist regarding the distribution of Economic Impact Payments (EIP) coming in the form of debit cards. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stepped to the plate on Friday to help sort out all the questions.

The loudest warning bell Washington has been hearing is that some people think the envelope the payment comes in looks like junk mail and are tossing it right in the garbage or putting it through the shredder. 

The key differentiator between junk mail and the stimulus payment envelopes is that the envelope the debit card is in will read “Money Network Cardholder Service.” Inside will be a VISA-branded prepaid card issued by MetaBank which offers instant access to the economic impact payment.

The FTC also fielded the question of whether the debit card was a second payment in addition to the previously sent check. The answer is no -- the government is simply using debit cards now as opposed to paper checks.

Activate the card immediately

Consumers should not let the card lay or risk losing it; it should be activated ASAP. Inside the mailer are specific instructions on how to activate the card, but here’s the short version: 

  • Cards can be activated by calling 1-800-240-8100 or visiting USdebitcard.gov online and clicking on the EIP card link. However, to activate a card, taxpayers will first have to give them their Social Security number. 

  • Once the card is activated, cash can be withdrawn (fee-free transfer to a personal bank account) or purchases can be made anywhere that accepts VISA debit cards. 

  • EIP cards will expire at the end of three years. When that happens, the bank will send any money left on the card to the taxpayer.

Beware of scams

If there are ANY questions or concerns about the card, the balance, or the card’s functionality, the Money Network has a 24-hour hotline that can be reached at the number listed above. There’s also more information and a quick video from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a set of FAQs from the IRS to answer questions you might have. 

ConsumerAffairs also suggests reading the various questions others have asked in response to the FTC’s new guidance. FTC staffers have been quick to answer questions that the agency may not have considered or covered elsewhere. 

Vultures are everywhere trying to get their hands on these cards. If someone calls you, writes you, emails you, or knocks on your door asking about the card, they are NOT from the government and you should turn them away. Don’t give them the debit card’s number or your Social Security number. Then, report the attempt to the FTC here.

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