What Can Happen If You Get Caught With Fake Pay Stubs?
July 31, 2023
It is crucial for employers, employees, loan officers, and property owners to know about the different fake pay stub penalties and the corresponding criminal charges that come with using fabricated wage statements or paycheck records.
The use of falsified paycheck records is a form of fraud. So, unless you want to face serious fake pay stub consequences, it is best to educate yourself on how people execute this type of scam.
In this article, you will discuss the different reasons people fake their pay stubs, as well as the tell-tale signs of a fake pay stub and the possible penalties for using one.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
- Fake pay stub penalties include fines worth $1,000, $5,000, or $1,000,000 at maximum. In addition, violators may face a minimum of 1 year to 30 years of imprisonment.
- Some people use fake pay stubs to try to secure a loan or rent an apartment. Others use it to scam people or evade their tax obligations.
- Fake pay stubs are sloppily formatted. They contain rounded values, inconsistent font styles, and sizes, and often lack essential information about an employee’s wages and deductions.
Why Do People Create Fake Pay Stubs?
There are different reasons why an individual would create and use fake pay stubs. What they do not realize is that by fabricating pay stubs, they are also exposing themselves to different fake pay stub penalties.
Below are some of the most common reasons why people create fake pay stubs.
Securing a Loan
Getting approved for a loan is one of the most common reasons people use fake pay stubs. At times, unemployed individuals make fake pay stubs to qualify for loans, especially in times of financial emergency.
They attempt to manipulate the information on their pay stubs to make it seem as though they are still currently employed or have a stable source of income.
Renting an Apartment
Aside from loans, some individuals who do not have a regular income source may fabricate their pay records and submit them to their landlord. They do this in hopes of getting their rental application approved.
Concealing Employment Gaps
Typically, banks and landlords request copies of pay stubs from the last six months. A person who has been unemployed for a significant period of time may end up creating pay stubs with false information to cover up the gaps in their employment status.
To do this, they recreate pay stubs from the last company where they worked and manipulate the data to fit the required timeline.
Paying Less for Child Support or Alimony
When a parent or divorcee wants to evade their financial obligations to their child or ex-spouse, they manipulate the information on their pay stubs.
They make it seem as though they are earning less so that the court will either require them to pay less for alimony or child support, or reconsider whether they are qualified to provide financial aid.
However, once the court discovers that the pay stubs are, in fact, fabricated, the parent or divorcee may end up paying more than the originally required amount and even face penalties.
Receiving Government Assistance
Some people also use fake pay stubs to try and qualify for government assistance, particularly those that provide financial aid or health care benefits. They edit their hourly rates and net salary to pretend that they are earning less than their regular income.
Businesses that are notorious for having unpaid taxes and issues with their permits will likely try to cover up their questionable operations. They do this by creating fake pay stubs and issuing them to their employees.
Specifically, business owners withhold payroll taxes from their employees' salaries and convince their workers that their taxes are taken care of as indicated in their paychecks.
In reality, all withheld percentages intended to pay employees' taxes are pocketed by shady employers.
Come tax season, these business owners discreetly avoid reporting to the IRS to continuously evade their tax obligations.
They may even be hiring ghost employees to serve as a front for their illegitimate dealings.
Acquiring a Department of Labor (DOL) Certification
Obtaining a DOL certification enables aliens to petition for legal U.S. citizenship status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Some agencies take advantage of this by targeting aliens in need of DOL certification. These agencies submit fake pay stubs and other false employment documents to obtain the certification on the alien's behalf.
Worse, they charge unsuspecting immigrants double or triple and promise to get them certified in a short span of time.
How to Spot Fake Pay Stubs
Getting involved in fake pay stub penalties and scams can be avoided if you know how to identify fake pay stubs.
Below are the tell-tale signs of a fabricated pay stub:
Intermixing the Letter ‘o’ and the Number Zero
Real paystubs do not mix the use of the number zero and the letter ‘o.’ This is an error that may be easy to miss at first, but it is one of the most common errors you can find on falsified paycheck records.
Employers know how essential it is to ensure every employee’s pay stub reflects all of their hours worked, tax withholdings, and all other adjustments applied to their taxable income.
In the example above, the fake pay stub does not indicate the employee’s hourly rate. It also lacks information on the employee’s Social Security tax, insurance, and retirement benefits.
If you see any crooked or uneven lines, inconsistent font choices, multiple spaces in between, or misspelled words, it is a clear sign that a fraudster produced the pay stub.
Notice how the sample fake pay stub above uses inconsistent font styles, capitalization, and spacing.
Genuine pay stubs look 100% professional, are neat, and have a consistent format all throughout.
It is highly unlikely to yield perfectly rounded values when calculating gross and net earnings and tax withholdings. Rounded values indicate made-up numbers that do not reflect an employee’s actual earnings.
Is it Legal to Use Pay Stub Generators?
Yes, it is perfectly legal to use pay stub generators. Pay stub generators are designed to save time and effort when creating pay records every payday.
Online generators have all the necessary information laid out for you to fill in. Some even come with a built-in calculator for faster and more accurate calculation of tax withholdings and net salaries.
It is suitable for small businesses, freelancers, and independent contractors because it provides a cost-effective resource that ensures they keep a consistent record of their income and taxes.
On the other hand, the accessibility of online payslip generators makes them a target for fraudsters lurking online.
Potential Penalties & Sanctions For Creating Fake Pay Stubs
The following are the possible fake pay stub penalties and sanction(s) for using or distributing fabricated paycheck records:
Fines and Criminal Charges
Willfully using fake pay stubs subjects you to multiple types of criminal charges punishable by law. You could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor and pay fines of up to $1000.
Worse, you may even be charged with a 3rd-degree felony with a corresponding penalty amounting to over $5,000.
It is also worth noting that Section 1344 of the U.S. Criminal Code identifies the use of falsified pay stubs as a form of bank fraud. Depending on the severity of your violation, you may face up to 30 years in prison or pay up to $1,000,000.
Since creating and using fake paycheck records is considered fraud, you could also face significant jail time. You can face a minimum of a one-year sentence or probation for a first-degree misdemeanor.
Otherwise, heavier fraud charges could mean facing a minimum of 5 years to a maximum of 30 years in jail.
Rejected Loan or Rent Applications
Aside from fake pay stub penalties, you may also face long-term negative consequences on your credit record. For instance, aside from having your loan and rental applications rejected, your records may be endorsed by other banks, loan agencies, and property owners.
As a result, you diminish your chances of acquiring a loan or a decent apartment to live in in the future.
Closure of Business
Employers who deliberately issue fabricated payslips to their employees may face legal action from their employees and be made to compensate their workers for inaccurately calculating their taxable earnings and labor costs.
A business that has been proven to actively produce fake pay stubs and operate illegally will most likely face permanent closure.
Understandably, unemployment and financial dilemmas may push you to resort to illegal measures to survive. That said, fake pay stub penalties are not worth the risk. Imagine having to pay multiple penalties when you are already facing monetary problems.
Also, a prison sentence leaves a permanent dent in all your records and will affect your future employment opportunities. Instead of fabricating your paycheck information, you can use a paystub generator instead.
Pay Stub generators make it easy for you to create multiple pay stubs legally while ensuring accurate information on all paycheck records. Alternatively, you can also secure W-2 Forms, Social Security benefits statements, bank statements, and employment references from your previous or current employer in place of pay stubs.
Fake Pay Stub Penalties FAQ
#1. Can you go to jail for fake pay stubs for an apartment?
Yes, you can face imprisonment, especially if you have been found to have fabricated multiple pay stubs in hopes of qualifying for renting an apartment.
Aside from imprisonment, you can possibly face fake pay stub penalties of not less than $1,000, depending on the degree of your violation and misdemeanor.
#2. What are possible charges for falsifying pay stubs?
Among the most likely fake pay stub penalties you can face for fabricating paycheck records are a 1st-degree misdemeanor and one-year imprisonment or probation, as well as a 3rd-degree felony and up to 5 or 30 years in jail.
You will also be charged with a minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum penalty of $1,000,000.
#3. What happens if you use fake pay stubs?
Using fake pay stubs makes you predisposed to serious legal action, penalties, and criminal charges. Your records will be endorsed by other lending agencies and banks, prompting further probing into your background or instant rejection of your loan and rental applications.
#4. Is it legal to make your own pay stubs?
Producing your own pay stubs is legal as long as you input correct and accurate information on them.
You must also make sure that you follow a legally acceptable format for your paycheck records—something that you can achieve with the help of a reliable online pay stub generator.
#5. How to spot a fake pay stub?
You can easily spot a fake pay stub by paying attention to the following key indicators:
- Rounded values or numbers
- Intermixed use of the number zero and the letter ‘o’
- Uneven lines and inconsistent font choices
- Missing information, such as a social security number, employer's or employee’s contact information, and hourly rates
#6. How to generate pay stubs for employees?
There are different ways to create pay stubs for your employees. You can use a pay stub generator if you want to save energy and resources while ensuring you release paycheck records on time.
You can also hire the expertise of experienced accountants and payroll personnel to help you prepare and calculate your employee’s earnings, withholdings, and other deductions.