RELATED: EDD expert talks new extension program, best time to call
Most who received that money got it either in the form of a check or direct deposit.
The Treasury Department, however, sent debit cards instead to four million Americans.
"Nobody knew it was happening, so it was a bit of a surprise," said Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention at AARP.
Yvonne Hughes of Fremont counts herself among those who were caught off guard.
RELATED: How to transfer money off stimulus prepaid debit cards and into your bank account
"I just thought it was a credit card solicitation," she said. "I thought, wow, they went to a lot of trouble to make a real card for solicitation."
Unlike those who received their payments in the form of a check, the debit cards didn't come in an official U.S. Department of Treasury envelope.
"I was reading through it and it said something about being an EIP card, but that didn't register for me. It didn't say anything about stimulus payments," said Hughes.
Stokes says others have been left confused too.
"We were getting calls to the Fraud Watch network helpline last week saying 'Hey, I think this card is a scam,'" she said. "So many people have dumped them."
RELATED: Coronavirus stimulus checks: When will payments from IRS be paid?
What made it worse for Kathy, she didn't cut up her own stimulus payment, she destroyed the one belonging to her son.
What was that like having to tell him?
"It was like ay yi yi, mom. I sure can use the money," Hughes said.
All is not lost. You can get your tossed debit card replaced.
"The good news is if you dumped the card because you thought it was junk mail, or you thought it was a scam, you can call 800- 240-8100. Explain that you got rid of the card because you didn't know what it was. They'll deactivate that card and they'll send you a new one," says Stokes.
The normal fee of $7.50 to replace your card will be waived the first time only. Those who received the debit cards do not have bank information on file with the IRS and their tax returns were processed by either the Andover or Austin IRS Service Center.
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.
Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here
RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
- COVID-19 risk calculator: Quiz yourself on the safest, most dangerous things you can do as CA reopens
- COVID-19 Help: Comprehensive list of resources, information
- When will the San Francisco Bay Area reopen? Track progress on 6 key metrics to reopening here
- Reopening California: What's opening and when in the Bay Area
- Everything we know about CA businesses opening and what comes next
- Life after COVID-19: Here's what restaurants, gyms will look like
- Here's everything allowed to open in CA (and what we're still waiting on)
- INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: How close was CA to becoming a NY-level crisis?
- What is a COVID-19 genetic, antigen and antibody test?
- Coronavirus Timeline: Tracking major moments of COVID-19 pandemic in San Francisco Bay Area/
- List: Where can I get tested for COVID-19 in the Bay Area?
- COVID-19 Diaries: Personal stories of Bay Area residents during novel coronavirus pandemic
- Coronavirus Doctor's Note: Dr. Alok Patel gives his insight into COVID-19 pandemic
- What does COVID-19 do to your body and why does it spread so easily?
- WATCH: 'Race & Coronavirus: A Bay Area Conversation' virtual town hall about COVID-19 impact on Asian American community
- WATCH: 'Race & Coronavirus: A Bay Area Conversation' virtual town hall about COVID-19 impact on African American community
- WATCH: 'Race & Coronavirus: A Bay Area Conversation' virtual town hall about COVID-19 impact on Latino community
- WATCH: 'Your Mental Health: A Bay Area Conversation' virtual town hall addressing COVID-19 impact on mental health
- Symptoms, prevention, and how to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak in the US
- Here's a look at some of history's worst pandemics that have killed millions