FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- None of us would think of ever throwing out our $1,200 stimulus payment, but that's what a Fremont woman thinks she accidentally did. She apparently isn't the only one.
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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.
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"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."
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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.
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