CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thursday the IRS and Treasury Department reported 159 million Americans have received Economic Impact Payments, or stimulus checks. However, the I-Team is finding that scammers could be trying to hijack funds which have not yet been received by millions of others.
One consumer group is warning people that scammers are trying to get the money on those cards before you do.
Four million Visa debit cards with stimulus money on them were recently sent to Americans in the mail. Most were sent to people who don't have bank accounts on file with the IRS; 150,000 in Illinois alone. But the AARP has a warning to everyone getting them.
"Scammers will look for every opportunity to get between you and that money," said Kathy Stokes, director of Fraud Prevention at AARP.
Stokes said you should make sure you read the letter sent with the Visa debit card to call the proper activation number. If you're one number off, you could be calling potential phony hotlines set up by thieves, trying to obtain the card numbers.
"There is the concern that they will pretend to be the bank, or they will pretend to be the IRS, and they will call or text or email and say, 'Hey, just want to make sure you got that card. Why don't you give me the pin or the debit card number itself or your Social Security Number just to verify'," said Stokes. "Scammers are around all the time doing horrible things. We are in the middle of a pandemic, we are in the middle of one of the biggest economic downturn any of us have experienced, we are in desperate need of this money."
There's another alert: don't throw the cards out. They are sent in plain looking envelopes, causing confusion.
"People are getting these nondescript envelopes and with their Economic Impact Payment loaded onto a debit card, not getting that that is what it is, and tossing it, thinking it is a scam," warned Stokes.
If you've accidentally thrown out the card, you can call an 800 number and have it replaced for a small fee.
To get a new card if you've thrown it out, call 1-800-240-8100
To check on status of a payment: Get My Payment
Click here to see if you're eligible for money
IRS stimulus check debit cards are target for scammers, AARP warns