It appears that for some people, desperate times call for desperate—and sometimes illegal—measures.
In these financially difficult times, there might be that temptation to try to cash in on a coronavirus stimulus check that is under a different name. But according to the law office of Stechschulte Nell, one should never try to deposit such a stimulus check, no matter how easy it might seem to be.
“If you have tried to deposit a dead or fraudulent COVID-19 stimulus check you may be charged with a federal crime such as bank fraud, mail fraud, or wire fraud. All of these are serious crimes, with long sentences of imprisonment or large fines,” the law firm wrote.
“In some cases people have been defrauded of their stimulus check, and when they try to deposit what they think is their real money, they may find that they have been a victim of a scam. Even though they are the victim, they may nonetheless be charged with a crime. Regardless of why you have been charged with fraud, you need to contact an attorney as soon as possible,” it added.
Be aware that committing check fraud might make an individual be on the hook for hefty fines and even possible imprisonment that could span decades.
“There are serious consequences for committing check fraud. This can include a fine of up to $1 million, or you can be imprisoned for up to thirty years (or both). If you have been charged with depositing a dead or fraudulent COVID-19 stimulus check, this may be one of the charges you are faced with,” Stechschulte Nell said.
One possible way that this situation could occur is if a stimulus check was sent out to a recently deceased individual. For this, the Internal Revenue Service has sent out notice that spouses or relatives will need to make time to return the funds to the agency.
However, know that this impacts only U.S. taxpayers who died before January 1, 2021. Also, if the deceased spouse was part of a joint return, the surviving individual can keep the stimulus payment, and the same holds true if the person who passed away is a married member of the U.S. military.
In the situation of a stimulus check having both the husband and wife’s names, the surviving spouse is eligible to keep the cash but must include a letter requesting a new stimulus payment be reissued with only his or her name on it. To return the funds, just write “void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check and then mail it to a local IRS location. Don’t forget to write a brief explanation stating the reason for returning the stimulus check.
If the stimulus payment was already deposited into a bank account, then one can send a personal check or money order to the IRS. Make the check payable to “U.S. Treasury” and write “Third EIP” and personal taxpayer identification number (social security number or individual taxpayer identification number) on the check.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.