LAS VEGAS, NV (KTNV) — Stimulus checks are starting to show up. Some in direct deposit, others by good old fashioned check. With millions of dollars being mailed out, people are worried thieves will intercept those payments.
Here's what you need to know to help make sure your check doesn’t go missing.
Amanda Matlock wonders everyday if her check is here. If not, when?
“I’m waiting on it and I don’t want any delays,” said Matlock.
As a new mom, her stimulus check is critical. She says she worries she might not get it because of ongoing problems with her mail.
“Before we open it, it’s already partially opened," she said. "Sometimes partially, or sometimes it’s even been half way through the envelope.”
In January Matlock was shocked to find she’d become a victim of identity theft.
“Somebody was trying to open up loan accounts and credit card accounts in our name, with our information,” Matlock explained. “They applied for a gas card and a loan. We ended up having to put a freeze on our credit to keep anybody from being able to apply for things with our information.”
She believe thieves may have got her information from tax documents that were stolen from her neighborhood’s cluster mailbox.
“The IRS has sent me a couple forms, and they told [us] they had sent them," said Matlock. "Whenever I called, I still had not received them."
Matlock isn’t the only mail theft victim who’s reached out to 13 Investigates. We’ve reported numerous incidents over the past year.
And it’s all over social media.
A neighbor on NextDoor believes she caught mail theft in progress, as in on-camera. An apparent thief tried to break into a cluster box. Not only are people saying their mail is missing, sometimes thieves make off the entire mail box.
So how do you protect yourself? We reached out to the IRS, US Postal Service and Metro.
Both the USPS and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department say diligence is key. Whether you’re expecting a live stimulus check or not, you don’t want to deliver thieves an easy opportunity. So the best way to protect you mail is to clear your mail box as soon as possible every day.
The Post Office also offers “INFORMED DELIVERY,” a free option you can sign up for which sends you an email with images of all the mail you should get every day.
The IRS wants you to watch out for red flags scammers may use:
• Emphasize the words "Stimulus Check" or "Stimulus Payment." The official term is economic impact payment.
• Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
• Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
• Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer's behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
• Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.
Click here for more information.
For those who didn’t receive tax refunds in past year and non-filers, the IRS will have an option where you can sign up for direct deposit.
Still, victims of identity theft like Matlock remain concerned.
“It makes me feel …it’s really unnerving because you’re not relaxed. Like you’re supposed to have security when it comes to your mail,” Matlock said. “Actual people’s lives are being affected by this. Like I said there’s a freeze on our credit at the moment because of identity theft.”
Police say call to 9-1-1 if you see a crime in progress like someone trying to break into a mailbox. And they want you to report suspicious activity like if you see someone who might be following a delivery truck.
Also if you suspect you’re a victim of ID theft, many credit card companies are now offering “freeze” features to protect our accounts.