August 18, 2020 · Insurance, Savings, Security, Taxes

How to Report Stolen Unemployment or Stimulus Payments

In late March 2020, the U.S. Congress passed new legislation, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, which provided a variety of government financial support to U.S. citizens, including unemployment assistance and stimulus payments. Both unemployment and stimulus payments may usually come to consumers in the form of a direct account deposit, a check sent in the U.S. mail, or prepaid debit card sent in the mail.

Unfortunately, wherever there is money, there are people interested in stealing it, and they may do it as simply as taking your check out of a mailbox or going to the extra effort of stealing your identity and getting access to your financial accounts. If you are missing an unemployment or economic stimulus payment, here's what you can do to try to recover it.

Missing Unemployment Payment

The CARES Act has provided financial support to millions of Americans unemployed due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those receiving payments include people who would not be ordinarily eligible for unemployment, including those who are self-employed, independent contractors, and freelancers. Rather than coming directly from the federal government, CARES Act unemployment funds are being managed by each state's department of labor as part of their unemployment insurance payment programs.

For many U.S. states, such as Georgia, the preferred method for distributing unemployment funds is either direct deposit into a personal checking or savings account. If the funds do not show up in your account, first check with your financial service provider and then with the state's department of labor. The alternative method for issuing funds is to provide a prepaid debit card; several states no longer issue paper checks as they are not as fast, reliable, or as secure as some forms of electronic funds transfer.

If your prepaid debit card is lost or stolen, you must report it immediately to your state's department of labor; and you will be asked to provide proof of identity to receive your replacement card.

Missing Economic Stimulus Payment

If your economic stimulus payment was supposed to be issued by direct deposit, the first thing to do is to check with your credit union or bank and make sure they didn't receive a deposit from the government.

Next, you can request a payment trace on your payment (regardless of how you would have received it) if you received Notice 1444, or if the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Get My Payment site shows your payment was issued on a specific date, but you have not received it. IRS Notice 1444 is an official government letter you should have received confirming that your CARES Act stimulus payment has been approved and automatically deposited into your account. A trace on an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) follows the same process as a trace on a tax refund, and to launch a trace, submit IRS Form 3911.

If you should have received a check or debit card and it is missing, first check its status on the IRS Get My Payment site; if the Get My Payment site says you're receiving a check, be aware that your payment may instead come as a debit card. If your payment was sent by check or debit card, and it was either lost, stolen or destroyed, then you should still request a payment trace. For questions about Economic Impact Payments, you may check this IRS site or call the IRS stimulus check phone number at (800) 919-9835.

If you think your economic impact payment has been stolen by someone who has also taken your identity, then you can report the identity theft to both the Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service at the same time. Go to Identity, which is the U.S. government's comprehensive website for consumers where you can report identity theft and begin creating a personal identity recovery plan.