• In recent days, some taxpayers’ coronavirus stimulus checks have started to be distributed not as paper checks to be mailed — but rather as prepaid debit cards, loaded with the appropriate stimulus funds.
  • Some recipients, however, have accidentally thrown their stimulus check debit cards away, thinking they must be the result of a scam of some kind, according to local news accounts.
  • Here’s what to do if you accidentally miss your stimulus funds.

In the weeks following Congress’ passage back in March of a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, one that included billions of dollars for direct stimulus payments to Americans, everyone has been waiting for their stimulus check to come in one of two ways. Either electronically, in the form of a direct deposit, or as a paper check delivered with a person’s regular mail. As of earlier this month, though, we’ve now passed the deadline set by the IRS for it to receive everyone’s bank details if they wanted a direct deposit, which means that going forward the IRS and the US Treasury Dept. will finish up depositing everyone’s stimulus checks electronically while also continuing to send out waves of checks in the mail.

In recent days, meanwhile, it was also announced that some taxpayers will get their money in an altogether different format — as a prepaid debit card. You can also use a web-based feature from the Post Office to track your money, which is probably a good idea to do since some people apparently haven’t realized their stimulus payment could be coming as a debit card and have been accidentally — are you ready for this? — throwing them away.

Just as a reminder of how much money you’re accidentally but literally throwing away if you do this: Most every American, if they haven’t already, is getting up to $1,200. That’s for individual taxpayers, while married couples can get up to $2,400, plus an extra $500 for each eligible child.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina, resident Susan Hafer recently got her debit card in the mail and told a local TV news station she thought it was a scam at first. The letter included with the card also came from an entity she’d never heard of — Money Network Cardholder Services. “I kept it for a few days, and then I thought, ‘I’m just going to cut it up’ and threw it in the trash,'” she said. Too late, she then saw a local news report about the IRS sending out 4 million prepaid debit cards instead of paper checks to some taxpayers if the IRS didn’t have their banking information on file.

And lest you think she’s the only one inadvertently doing this, think again. Some state attorneys general offices have been getting calls from residents reporting these cards, thinking they’re being targeted by some kind of scam.

If you find yourself in Hafer’s shoes and accidentally throw your own debit card away, don’t worry, though. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

The card can be replaced — you’ll just need to call 1-800-240-8100 or click here for more information. The first card will be deactivated, and a new one will be sent out to you. You can also find details on card replacement fees here.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.