By: Ret. Colonel Dr. Shirley Gerrior and Suzanne LaFollette-Black, Associate State Director, AARP NC
Scammers know most folks will go to great lengths to cash in on “free money.” And 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. These VISA cards arriving in a plain, white envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services” at Meta Bank require your Social Security Number to activate. And that’s the rub.
Anytime money is involved, scammers will come up with new ways to grab it. Now that these debit cards are hitting mailboxes, it’s offered scammers another opportunity to try and steal 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 in how you activate your card. Specifically, be sure you call the correct telephone number listed on the letter where the card is attached. Do not use a number you simply find on an Internet search. Scammers can place fake customer service phone numbers online to deceive people to call their bogus boiler room instead of the true number to reach Meta Bank’s activation services.
And with Veterans and Military families twice as likely as civilians to be targeted by con artists, 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. 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 all transactions.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network and Operation Protect Veterans initiative already have received numerous reports of COVID-19 treatment scams, fake charity pitches claiming to help veteran and military families, as well as a number of phishing scams trying to steal one’s personal identity, financial information, and even Veterans Administration (VA) 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 and be vigilant. Don’t let scammers cash out your stimulus card and steal your personal identity. Instead, be a fraud fighter with Operation Protect Veterans. If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam by calling AARP’s toll-free Fraud Watch Helpline (1-877-908-3360) to report suspicious activity or get help from certified fraud counselors.
For more information, visit AARP’s free Fraud Watch Network: aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or www.aarp.org/nc
Suzanne LaFollette-Black has been a gerontologist for the past 35+ years. She is the AARP NC Associate State Director of Advocacy and Community Outreach. Suzanne’s career has been in the aging network as a non-profit nursing home administrator, Area Agency on Aging Director, Executive Director of Moore County Department of Aging. Suzanne is originally from Window Rock, Arizona (Navajo Indian reservation). Suzanne has a BS in Sociology and minor in Zoology/ Music from NAU and graduate studies at USC Ethel Andrus Percy Gerontology program and MASA from University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. She served as the NCAOA (NC Association on Aging, Inc.) President from 2018-2020; Rotary; NCIOM Deaf and Hearing committee; Governor’s Highway Safety Executive Committee; and other community organizations.
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