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Don’t throw away your stimulus check. How to identify your IRS payment in the mail

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Stimulus check or junk mail? Know what to look for so you don’t throw your money away.


Angela Lang/CNET

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After waiting all this time, the last thing you want to do is accidentally throw away your stimulus payment from the US government. But the envelope containing your paper check or prepaid debit card is so nondescript, the IRS had to tweet a warning people to open their mail carefully — the implication being not to toss your stimulus check for up to $1,200 into the trash. There’s a free service that can help make sure that doesn’t happen.

A USPS program called Informed Delivery will send you an alert with a photo of any letter with your name on it that’s about to be delivered, including the envelope containing your stimulus payment. This way, you’ll know what to look out for and when it’s coming. Informed Delivery is an alternative to the IRS’ Get My Payment app to track the delivery of your paper check on a more granular level. 

There are a few things to keep in mind. Informed Delivery will show you all your documents scanned by the post office, not just your stimulus payment. It won’t be able to tell you why you don’t have a stimulus payment yet, or what to do if your stimulus check never shows up. You can cancel it at any time.

Read on to learn how to use the USPS tool to see your stimulus check in the mail and brush up on the latest about the second stimulus check that’s been proposed. This story updates often.

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Is your stimulus check in there? You could already know before you ever take a look.


Sarah Tew/CNET

How to see your own personal mailbag 

It can take three business days to activate your account after you set it up. Once it’s live, you will receive an email each morning Monday through Saturday if mail is scheduled to arrive, notifying you of mail that will be delivered, along with a grayscale image of the front of the letter. You can also use the free Android and iPhone Informed Delivery app to be notified.

Am I definitely getting my stimulus check in the mail?

At this point, you’re more likely to receive your money in the mail than in your bank account. That’s because the IRS deadline to provide your direct deposit information passed on May 13. 

The federal revenue agency said its focus is now on sending payments in the mail through the post office — either as a paper check or as a prepaid debit card called the economic impact payment, or EIP, card. Read on to track your payment envelope in the mail.

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Informed Delivery: Quickly check that you’re eligible

When the USPS runs mail through its automated mail sorting equipment, it creates a digital image of the front of all letter-size mail, and that includes your stimulus check. The Informed Delivery program uses this digitally captured information to notify you when each piece of mail is on the way. 

The service is available to many residential and personal P.O. box addresses but not businesses. It also won’t work for some multiunit buildings where the Postal Service hasn’t yet identified each unit.

Here’s how to check whether it’s available in your area:

1. Head to the Postal Service’s Informed Delivery page and tap the Sign Up for Free button.

2. Enter your mailing address, and tap Continue

If the service is available, you can continue to set up an account.

Set up the Informed Delivery service

Setting up your account is straightforward. 

1. On the Postal Service’s Informed Delivery page, tap Sign Up for Free.

2. After you enter your mailing address and confirm it’ll work with the service, you’ll need to accept the terms and conditions and tap Continue

3. On the next page, choose your username, password and security questions. Then, enter your contact information and tap Continue.

4. On the next page, you’ll need to verify your identity. Tap Verify identity online if you want to receive a verification code on your phone or tap Request invitation code by mail if you want the Postal Service to mail a code to you. If neither method works for you, may also be given the option to visit a post office to verify your identity in person.

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For more on ordering and receiving packages during the coronavirus pandemic, here’s how to find household goods when Amazon and other online stores are out of stock, how to order beer and wine online, and how long the virus can survive on packages.

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