Many people experience losing items in the mail—someone may have misplaced, destroyed, or stolen them. This usually occurs in Amazon and eBay deliveries, which can be extremely frustrating. However, when it happens to your stimulus check, it can be devastating.
Criminals are smarter nowadays and can employ many ways of stealing your stimulus check. If you think someone else has claimed it, it pays to know what to do and how to protect yourself.
We know that stimulus checks are highly valuable, and you wouldn’t want to lose the money forever. So, we’ve checked official government sources for the steps to take if you think someone has stolen them.
We also uncovered some tactics that criminals use to steal stimulus checks. If you want to learn the critical ways to avoid losing your money, read on to learn more.
What should you do if your stimulus check gets stolen or lost in the mail?
The US government provides Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) or “stimulus checks” to help boost economic activity. Eligible taxpayers can receive it by mail or as a tax credit.
These documents amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars. So, what should you do if your stimulus check was lost or stolen in the mail?
What happens to the money if your financial institution doesn’t receive the direct deposit? Is it gone forever, or can you get it back?
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) knows that these situations can happen; fortunately, the agency has procedures that cover these circumstances. You can request a payment trace for your stimulus check if it gets lost, destroyed, or stolen.
Although this is good news because you won’t lose the money, you will only get the amount as a recovery rebate credit. This means it reduces the amount you have to pay in taxes on your next tax return, so you won’t get it immediately.
Requesting a stimulus payment trace: What to do
Submitting a payment trace request to the IRS is the most crucial thing you can do if you haven’t received your stimulus check yet.
You can do so in two methods:
- You may mail or fax a completed copy of the Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund document (Form 3911) to the IRS.
- You can call the IRS hotline at 800-919-9835.
It’s crucial to note that you can choose only one of these options, so you don’t have to mail a copy of Form 3911 if you’ve already called the IRS on the phone.
Here are some important reminders when you’re filling up Form 3911:
- At the top of the form, write “EIP1” if you want to trace the first stimulus check, “EIP2” for the second, and “EIP3” for the third.
- It’s best not to forget these when filling up item 7 under Section 1:
- When choosing the type of return, tick the box for “Individual.”
- You must put “2021” for the Tax Period.
- You shouldn’t write anything under “Date Filed.”
- You should sign the form before submitting it. If you’re filing jointly with your spouse, each of you must place your signatures on the document.
After completing the form, you can mail or fax it to the address or fax number in the chart on the IRS website.
How to check the status of your stimulus check release
The IRS used to have a stimulus check tracker called “Get My Payment,” but it’s no longer available. Instead, you can check the status of its release through the following methods:
- Your online account on the IRS website
- IRS EIP notices that the agency mailed to your last known address
- Letter 6475, which confirms the total amount of your third stimulus check
If you’re married and filing for a joint recovery rebate credit, you and your spouse will have to log into your own accounts to check the total payment you’ll receive.
How do you report a stolen stimulus check?
Can someone steal and cash your stimulus check? Unfortunately, yes. They may do so through illegal methods like identity theft.
If they know your birthdate and Social Security Number, they can impersonate you and direct your money to their bank account.
So, where can you report if you suspect someone has stolen your stimulus check?
If you think your husband or wife stole your stimulus check or someone has cashed it out via illegal means, you can let the IRS and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) know.
To do so, you can visit IdentityTheft.gov. This government website allows you to report identity theft and provides you with a recovery plan.
Then, follow these steps:
- Step 1: Click the “Get started” button on the website. It should redirect you to a page that asks which statement describes your situation.
- Step 2: Select “Someone filed a federal tax return using my information.” Then, click “Continue.”
The website will have several pages of questions you’ll need to answer. It’ll use the information you input to accomplish the IRS Form 14039 or the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit. Then, the site will send the report to the IRS.
You may also place a personal statement and download a copy of your affidavit on the website. After accomplishing this, IdentityTheft.gov will highlight a recovery plan with instructions you can follow to protect yourself and recover from identity theft.
Why else haven’t you received your stimulus check?
Aside from someone stealing the document and cashing it out, there are other reasons you may not have received your Economic Impact Payment. Here are some of them:
1. You’ve recently changed your bank account
Sometimes, the IRS directs the stimulus check payments to your bank account. However, if you’ve recently switched banks, the organization may not have your details on file yet.
In this case, it’ll mail you a debit card or paper check. You may have to wait a few weeks to receive it.
2. You didn’t file tax returns for 2019 and 2020
The IRS didn’t require everyone to file their 2019 and 2020 tax returns. So, if you didn’t do so, the IRS doesn’t have the data to determine if you’re eligible to receive a third stimulus check. It also can’t calculate how much you’ll have to receive.
You’ll likely receive the amount as a recovery rebate credit on your 2021 tax return when this happens.
What happens next after you report a stolen stimulus check?
The IRS may respond six weeks after receiving your payment trace application. However, this can take longer due to staffing issues.
The agency may issue a new check if it determines that no one has cashed it out yet. However, if you locate the original check after the IRS has sent you a new one, you’ll have to return the original.
If the IRS finds that someone has cashed out your check, you’ll receive a claim package from the U.S. Bureau of the Fiscal Service. It’ll review your details before it checks if it can reverse the payment and issue a new one.
How do criminals steal stimulus checks?
If you want to protect your stimulus check, it pays to know how criminals get their hands on these documents in the first place.
Here are some of the most common methods they use:
They impersonate government agencies on the phone
Impersonating government agencies and reputable companies on the phone is an old-school tactic that scammers use to get your information. Caller IDs are often helpful in these scenarios, but scammers are more sophisticated nowadays.
Criminals can suddenly call you and get you to “confirm” your details by asking you to share your birth date, SSN, bank account, and other information about your stimulus check.
When you encounter these calls, put the phone down and call the government agency the scammer is impersonating. If it states that it didn’t contact you, block the scammer’s number.
They physically steal your mail
Some criminals physically steal your mail. If your mailbox is readily accessible, thieves can steal the stimulus check and look for someone who can cash it.
They employ identity theft tactics
Cybercriminals can use online tactics like hacking and phishing to steal your identity. They can collect your details and cash out your stimulus check without you even noticing.
The crime may not stop with your stimulus check–it can lead to other damages like ID theft. Investing in identity theft protection services to protect yourself against these attacks may be a wise decision.
Having your mail stolen can be frustrating, and the consequences can be much more serious if it contains your much-awaited stimulus check. Knowing what to do in these situations is vital, as you risk losing your money if you don’t follow the right steps.
Keep this guide in mind as you strive to get your payments, and remember to be mindful of the tactics that scammers can use to steal your identity and money!