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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Coronavirus relief payments are dropping into many mailboxes not as checks, but as debit cards.

“Without sort of that upfront information to tell people what to look for, a lot of people, unfortunately, thought it was junk mail, thought it was a scam and they discarded it,” AARP Director of Fraud Prevention Programs Kathy Stokes said.

Stokes says if anyone has thrown away their stimulus cards by mistake, there is a way to get a new one.

“You can call a 1-800 number. They will replace the card at no charge,” Stokes said.

Lawmakers like Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey want Americans to be aware of the change.

“The payment may look like a scam at times to people when it really isn’t, so it can be terribly confusing for people,” Casey said.

The cards are real, but AARP says scammers have come out of the woodwork and are targeting the vulnerable.

“If you lose $80,000 or $800,000 to a scam and you’re 87 years old, there’s no recourse and you’re not getting that money back,” Stokes said.

Casey says law enforcement is ready to go after anyone committing these crimes.

“If you engage in this kind of fraud, you’re going to be prosecuted, we’re going to make every effort and use every resource possible to investigate your conduct to charge you with a crime and put you in jail,” Casey said.

Both Stokes and Casey say family and friends can look out for one another and keep each other safe from scams. If you threw out your stimulus card by mistake, the number you can call is 1-800-240-8100.

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