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Darn, I thought it was a scam

Some elderly residents have been shredding pandemic relief payment cards assuming they were a scam.

“I did cut it up into five pieces,” said Geraldine King, a 79-year-old Central Point resident. “I was able to tape it all back together.”

King and millions of other Americans received a Visa debit card in the mail last week worth $600 or more.

Unfortunately for many local residents, they thought the cards were bogus and sent them through the shredder only to realize they made a big mistake.

King cut hers into five pieces, and then read a Mail Tribune article that the credit cards are legitimate. She was initially stumped as to how she could get her money.

“I really needed it,” she said.

Other distraught local residents have sent their cards through a shredder before realizing their worth. Still others shredded the cards and threw the remains in the trash. King was able to retrieve hers from her garbage.

A retired school teacher, King was lucky because she was able to piece the card back together and then call 1-800-240-8100, the toll-free number for the credit card company, and a new card is being shipped out to her.

The credit card is one of three ways the federal government is sending out pandemic relief payments. The most common way is direct deposit, as long as the IRS has the routing number and other information about your bank.

In some cases, the IRS will send checks.

“We really encourage people to do direct deposit,” said David Tucker, spokesman for the IRS.

Because tax filing season is coming up soon, Tucker said another way to get the relief payment is by indicating on your tax return that you didn’t receive it because the credit card was lost or destroyed.

However, the IRS won’t begin processing tax returns until Feb. 12 this year. Usually the beginning of processing begins in late January, but the extra work involved in the issuance of the coronavirus relief payment pushed the date forward.

Typically it takes up to 21 days to receive a tax refund unless there’s a problem with the return.

But taxpayers can begin filling out their returns now by going to IRS.gov. Information is also available in Spanish.

For taxpayers earning $72,000 a year or less, the filing should be free and you can choose between a number of tax preparation services that have partnered with the IRS. Some of the companies offer free state tax preparation and some don’t.

Tucker said filers should indicate the first round of stimulus payments from last year as well as the second round this month. Single filers received $1,200 last time and $600 this time.

Tucker said the stimulus money is not taxable income.

The IRS prefers people file electronically, which ensures it’s processed quickly.

If you file electronically and provide your bank account information, you’ll receive a refund sooner.

Electronic filing is also preferred because of COVID-19 issues, including more limited manpower for physical processing.

Tucker said taxpayers should save all documents, including the paperwork that came with the stimulus payments, for a period of seven years.

The stimulus payment received in January has to be accounted for on your tax form for 2020 because Congress authorized it Dec. 27, 2020.

The Visa debit cards can be used to make purchases online or in stores, and you can get cash from domestic in-network ATMs or transfer funds to a personal bank account, according to the IRS.

The cards are being sent in a white envelope with the U.S. Department of Treasury seal.

The EIP card has the Visa name on the front and the issuing bank, MetaBank, N.A., on the back. Each mailing includes instructions on activation and use of the card.

For more information, go to EIPcard.com.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

(Susan Tompor/Detroit Free Press/TNS)