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Tossed your stimulus money? You can get it back

An image of the pre-paid debit card that carries coronavirus stimulus money for some people. (Courtesy of EIPcard.com)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the coronavirus stimulus money the government is sending to people in the form of either prepaid debit cards or paper checks.

While we’re all used to tossing credit or debit card offers that come in the mail, this is one time you want to open the envelope. You will know it’s legitimate because it will be in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services.”

I neglected to mention, though, what to do if you do end up throwing it out. You can request a free replacement through MetaBank Customer Service by calling 800-240-8100 and choosing option two from the main menu. The standard $7.50 fee will be waived, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

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Isolation and loneliness among the elderly create a “perfect storm” for exploitation of seniors who have been in quarantine because of the coronavirus, the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department says.

“… The unprecedented quarantines to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus have taken social isolation to a new dimension for many seniors, making them more vulnerable to financial exploitation,” says Marguerite Salazar, department superintendent.

Financial professionals and those involved with an elderly person should know the following “red flags” when it comes to such exploitation, Salazar says:

n Reluctance to talk about financial matters, or a lack of knowledge about financial status.

n A caregiver or “overly protective friend” who persuades the senior to surrender control of finances.

n Fear or sudden change in feelings about somebody.

n Abrupt and unexplained changes in spending habits, a will, trust or beneficiary designations.

n Unexplained checks made out to cash, unexplained loans or unexplained disappearance of assets (cash, valuables, securities, etc.).

n Watch for suspicious signatures on the senior’s documents or checks.

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Small businesses that are looking to hire contractors or freelancers – say a software developer or graphic designer – beware of imposters posting fake accounts on platforms like Upwork or Freelancer.com.

The Better Business Bureau says fraudsters are stealing the photos and resumes of legitimate contractors and posting them on a number of sites. Their rates are lower than what other similarly qualified people charge, “and they’re asking for a deposit upfront,” according to the BBB.

“They may even contact freelancers directly and ask to use their profile in exchange for payment or promise of future work,” the BBB says.

It recommends these protections when looking online for prospects:

n Always speak with top applicants over video chat. Make sure they match their photo and have the knowledge and experience they claim in their profile.

• Look for advertised contractors on other platforms, such as LinkedIn or social media sites to learn more about them.

n Practice the “if it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true” rule. This means being skeptical of requested pay that seems very low. Do that by researching the job field to see what standard hourly rates are. “If an experienced candidate is advertising a price well below that … it’s very likely a scam.”

Contact Ellen Marks at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210​.

 

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