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Upper Valley residents mistake $1,200 stimulus payment for junk mail

  • President Donald Trump smiles as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hands him a debit card that will be used to send payments by the Treasury Department to Americans during a Cabinet Meeting in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2020 9:28:23 PM
Modified: 6/9/2020 9:28:14 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — When Craig Sterritt received a letter with a return address for a return address for “Money Network Cardholder Services” in the mail containing a debit card about a week ago, he assumed it was just another of the dozens of credit card offers he’s received over the years.

About a week letter, Sterritt, of White River Junction, received another letter, this one from the federal government stating that his stimulus money had already been delivered, in the form of a debit card in that nondescript white envelope.

That’s when Sterritt realized that the plastic card he’d thrown away the week before was indeed his $1,200 stimulus payment.

Similar payments were sent to citizens across the nation as part of the federal CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the act, married couples receive $2,400 and people with children receive an additional $500 per child.

“I remember being a little puzzled by it because in the course of my life I’ve probably received 50 or 100 credit cards in the mail, just to try to get you to get signed on,” Sterritt said. “This one had ‘debit’ on it, which I thought was weird, but there was no explanation with it. There was no mention of it being a stimulus payment from the federal government.”

Sterritt is far from alone in his experience. Per instructions from the federal government, those who do not have direct deposit set up with their tax returns were told they would receive their stimulus funds in the mail. While the money comes from the federal government, the Treasury Department used a third-party vendor to issue the cards, leading to confusion.

“Unfortunately the cards almost look like junk mail. What we’ve seen is people throw them away or almost throw them away and then realize what they are,” Enfield Police Chief Roy Holland said. “The one I’ve seen was just a white envelope with the address on it and the return address was for the private company.”

Since the cards began getting sent out at the end of last month, Enfield police have received calls from people who were suspicious about the mail. A message posted to the IRS website states that the debit cards will come in an envelope that reads “Money Network Cardholder Services.”

“I can see how somebody would just throw it away as junk mail,” Holland said. “For a little while anyway, if you haven’t received your stimulus check, check what appears to be junk mail.”

The card itself also does not contain any language that identifies it as part of the stimulus program, Sterritt said. It is marked with the recipient’s name, the word debit and is decked out in a blue background with white stars, according to photographs on the Economic Impact Payments card website.

“I figured it was just another type of debit card or credit card scam and just tossed it,” Sterritt said. “They look exactly like junk mail.”

After Sterritt realized he had discarded the debit card, he contacted a hotline number (800-240-8100) set up by the IRS through MetaBank Customer Service for lost cards and was told a replacement would be sent.

“It’ll probably arrive in the same form, but I’ll be prepared for it this time,” Sterritt said.

The stimulus payments have also opened up another avenue of concern for law enforcement agencies and the general public, according to Holland.

“Unfortunately, there’s always financial scams, but it definitely opened up a new attack for scams. Right away after the stimulus was announced, we had a flurry of people report to us of calls from bad guys purporting to be the IRS. Luckily we haven’t had any reports of people falling for it,” Holland said, adding that after police receive a call about a complaint they log it in the FBI database that tracks scams.

“Social Security or the IRS will not call you over the phone to ask for information,” he said. “They will send you official documentation in the mail. When in doubt, give us a call and we will help them sort through it.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

Valley News

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