Tax refunds and stimulus payments may appear to be junk mail? This year, people have been wasting free money, though it’s not always their fault.
According to GOBankingRates.com’s early December report, residents of California have unintentionally thrown away their $1,050 Middle-Class Tax Refund checks—the most in the history of the state. Meanwhile, Houston’s KHOU news station reported that several Texans have also unintentionally thrown away their $600 stimulus cheques. Virginia has also experienced it, according to the News-Leader. And those residents are not alone. Tax refunds and other stimulus payments may appear to be junk mail.
Residents in every instance have claimed that they ignored the delivery because they thought it was junk mail or con and threw the envelope in the garbage or shredder instead of falling for the con and wasting their time on potential scammers. According to NBC News, one of the problems is that many of these tax refunds and other stimulus payment checks are prepaid debit cards, not checks, and they are packaged in envelopes that closely resemble junk mail. In addition, the FTC has cautioned customers about “refund and recovery” schemes, raising awareness.
In some cases, the mail may have an arbitrary return address, usually to a Post Office Box, and the plain white envelope lacks any government insignia that may give it the appearance of being important paperwork that you should be aware of. According to NBC News, the IRS has now started using a similar mail method, so it’s not just state payments.
According to The Washington Post, the government switched to debit cards at first during the epidemic to speed up payment delivery since people needed the money for necessities as many were struggling financially as a result of job loss. However, there is some protection in doing so since thieves who have become highly skilled at check washing are less likely to seize mail that doesn’t appear like a check and take money meant for someone else.
According to GOBankingRates.com, it’s a good thing that states and the federal government has call centers in case you unintentionally throw away or shred your tax refunds and stimulus payments thinking it was junk mail. The problem, however, doesn’t end there because you can receive other checks or reimbursements that look unremarkable and end up in the garbage.
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Although several U.S. states still want to send out some in 2023, here are some things to watch out for and double-check before throwing out, including state tax refunds and other stimulus payments.
Checks for Refunds of Health Insurance
8.2 million Americans might soon receive reimbursement from their health insurance company, according to NBC. For individuals with coverage through small employment plans, the maximum amount is $155; for big group plans, it is $78; and for ACA plans, it is $141. Since the government “requires that insurers spend at least 80% of premiums on health-care costs and pay policyholders for the difference if they do not hit that benchmark,” this is the case.
Checks for Automobile Insurance Refunds
Due to an excess in profits reported by state insurance agencies, Michigan individuals were granted $400 in vehicle insurance refund payments earlier this year. But, not only residents of the Midwest should be on the lookout for checks from auto and life insurance companies. Your former provider may issue a check for any money paid in advance that wasn’t necessary to cover you until the termination date if you decide to cancel or change plans. It’s best to double-check everything from your insurance company because you might not receive a warning that this payment is approaching.
Reward Certificates for Credit Cards
If you have a shop credit card, such as the TJMaxx Rewards card, that offers reward certificates after you spend a particular amount at their retail locations, they may give you the gift as a paper certificate included in your monthly statement. Hence, if you tend to ignore your statement without first reading it, you might want to pay attention the next time to make sure you aren’t losing out on any additional benefits. You can enroll in digital certificates from some businesses, like TJMaxx, so you can check the amount online, but you still have to sign up for this service.
This one can be put down to just forgetting you even sent the mail-in rebate papers, as it could take some time for the money to reach you after processing. You could think that when a manufacturer sends you electronics, pet supplies, or any other item you bought, it’s just another promotion they want you to take advantage of, but it could be your rebate. Several manufacturers also collaborate with outside businesses to handle refunds, so the address could not look all familiar and could be taken to be junk mail.
If you work as a contractor or freelancer, some clients may want to pay you using a “bill pay” service offered by their bank. With this option, the client enters information into their banking platform, and the institution takes care of processing and mailing a check. But if it’s a new client and you’re not expecting to be paid in that way, it might not be very obvious as such. If you are waiting for an invoice to be paid, it is recommended to open the envelope first just to be sure.