Is it Illegal to Make Fake Pay Stubs?
July 31, 2023
Is it illegal to make fake pay stubs? The short answer is no. Creating fake pay stubs alone is not illegal; however, it becomes a different story when fake pay records are used as proof of income or in personal and business transactions.
Using fake pay stubs is a form of fraud, and the penalties will depend on the intention behind fabricating one. It is also worth noting that not everyone who creates or uses falsified paycheck records does it for criminal reasons.
In this article, we will explore whether creating fake pay stubs is illegal, the different reasons why people use them, and the possible consequences of being caught creating and submitting fabricated paycheck documents.
- It is not illegal to make fake pay stubs if these are only used to demonstrate how taxes and contributions are deducted from an employee’s salary.
- Creating fake pay stubs becomes subject to penalties when used as proof of income to secure loans and get an apartment.
- When in doubt, coordinate with the local authorities and the employer to confirm the document’s validity and authenticity.
Why Would Someone Create Fake Pay Stubs?
Now that we’ve answered the question, ‘Is it illegal to make fake pay stubs?’, it’s time to reveal the different reasons why people would resort to falsifying pay stubs.
Qualify for a Loan or Credit Card
Qualifying for a loan or a credit card is the most common reason why people create fake pay stubs. Individuals who do not have copies or access to their last set of pay stubs often try to replicate their pay records to show lenders that they have the funds to repay the loan.
Rent an Apartment
Others fabricate their payslips in hopes of renting an apartment. Landlords also require pay stubs when evaluating the employment history and financial status of people looking to rent a space on their property.
Execute Phishing Scams
Unfortunately, there are also those with more malicious intentions for forging pay records. These are fraudsters attempting to phish personal informationand extort money from individuals who do not know about fake pay stub schemes.
Some business owners are also guilty of committing this type of fraud. These are business owners who want to create a legitimate front to conceal their unethical operations behind the scenes. Worse, they create fake pay records to dodge tax-paying duties.
Is it Illegal to Make Fake Pay Stubs?
People often ask questions such as ‘Is it illegal to make fake pay stubs?’ and ‘Are fake pay stubs illegal?’
When you make pay stubs, technically, you are not committing fraud yet.
In fact, some accountants create fake pay stubs to guide employees on the different deductions and adjustments to their salary. They input the employee’s hourly rate and regular work hours and demonstrate how to calculate their taxes and contributions.
This is especially true in states where employers are not required to issue pay stubs, but employees want to understand the different deductions applied to their gross earnings.
But once you use your fabricated document to trick lenders, banks, and landlords into thinking that you have a stable income source, that counts as a form of fraud.
That is because you are manipulating information on what is considered a valid document that banks, lenders, and government offices acknowledge when verifying a borrower’s income and filing taxes.
Let’s say you have been unemployed for a significant time or are having trouble reaching out to your previous employer to request copies of your last pay stubs. You badly need your pay stubs to qualify for a car loan.
As such, you decide to try and recreate your own pay stubs and submit them to the bank or lender in hopes of getting your loan application approved. This is illegal because you are deceiving the lender with manipulated or false documents and information.
There are alternative documents, such as your proof of identity and address or unemployment benefits, that you can submit in case you cannot present copies of your most recent pay stubs.
How to Recognize a Fake Pay Stub
Fortunately, there are surefire ways to differentiate a fake pay stub from a genuine one. The key is to take a closer look at the details and formatting of the pay stub.
Specifically, you must keep an eye out for the following signs of a fraudulent pay record:
One of the main reasons why it is illegal to make fake pay stubs is because the values are made up or are estimates of one’s previous salary.
Rounded values often mean that the gross and net earnings are inaccurate, as these numbers are extremely rarely rounded in practice.
It is important to calculate every last value or decimal point on each employee’s salary.
Scammers rarely know how to properly account for taxes and contributions, and so they try to copy details from genuine pay records that they could get their hands on.
Messy and Inconsistent Formatting
Real pay stubs are prepared by the Human Resources and Finance departments of most companies. They take extra care to ensure pay stubs look professional, neat, and easy to read.
Any uneven spacing, inconsistent font choices, or errors like mixing up letters and numbers are clear indications of a fabricated pay stub.
Aside from having a professional and neat appearance, genuine pay records must contain complete information about an employee’s earnings. From the hourly rates to the total hours and earnings—every single detail counts.
The Consequences of Using Fake Pay Stubs
There are serious consequences if you are caught using fabricated wage statements or payslips. Individuals facing financial distress often disregard the possible penalties for fake pay stubs.
You can face a minimum of $1,000 and up to $1,000,000 in penalties and fines, and even imprisonment for up to 30 years. You can also be charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor or a 3rd-degree felony.
A first-degree misdemeanor comes with penalties and fines of no less than $1,000. The good news is that you may not face imprisonment but get sentenced to a year of probation instead.
However, if you commit a serious case of a fake pay stub scam, then you will likely pay at least $5,000 in fines and possibly get 5 to 30 years in jail.
How to Avoid Fake Pay Stub Scams
Getting involved in fake pay stub scams, whether voluntarily or not, can cause damage to your reputation and even your finances.
Here’s how to protect your business and money from the scam:
- Conduct a background check. Contact the employer indicated in the pay stub. Doing so will help you confirm whether the employer is a real person or a business. You can also check whether the person who submitted the pay stub is currently employed or affiliated with the employer.
- Employ the assistance of an accountant. Certified and experienced accountants are well-versed in all things taxes, business expenses, and even exposing scams involving pay records.
- Screen the details of the pay stub. Take the time to scrutinize the details and information declared in the document. Check if the resulting values make sense and if there is any missing information, such as the year-to-date, taxes, or rates.
So, is it illegal to make fake pay stubs? It is if you use it to deceive well-meaning individuals and businesses.
On the other hand, if you are a lender or a landlord and are doubtful about the authenticity of a borrower's or tenant’s pay records, it is best to cooperate with the appropriate authorities.
Fake pay stub scams remain rampant, so you need to be extra careful and vigilant not to fall victim to this type of fraudulent activity.
Is it Illegal to Make Fake Pay Stubs FAQs
#1. What happens if you make fake pay stubs?
If you are wondering whether it is illegal to make fake pay stubs, it all boils down to how and when you use the false proof of your paycheck.
If you make fake pay stubs and use them for legal transactions such as applying for a loan or renting an apartment, you can be reported to the local authorities and face penalties and fines.
#2. How do I make a real pay stub?
The key to making a real pay stub is to seek the assistance of a payroll officer or an accountant with extensive knowledge and background in preparing pay records for different types of employees.
You can also use an online pay stub generator to create pay stubs in a faster, more secure, and more convenient manner.
#3. How can I spot a fake pay stub?
Fake pay stubs have inconsistent formatting, particularly with the choice of font and the arrangement of all the key information. Fabricated pay records also lack information such as the Employee Identification Number, hourly rate, and retirement plan contributions.
#4. Can you create your own pay stubs?
Yes, you can. The easiest way is to use an online pay stub generator. There are ready-made templates that you can choose from and fill in with the essential information to save time.
Now, going back to the question, ‘Is it illegal to make fake pay stubs?’ The said query does not apply when you are using a pay stub generator as long as you are inputting correct, accurate, and updated information about your current employment.
#5. How do landlords verify pay stubs?
Landlords verify pay stubs by comparing the information declared on the stubs with the ones enumerated on other valid documents such as W-2 Forms, credit card or bank statements, and tax returns.
They may also request a rent reference from the landlords where the tenant previously lived.
#6. How can someone verify my income if I don’t have pay stubs?
If, for any valid reason, you are unable to access copies of your most recent pay stubs, you can submit your latest income tax returns, bank statements, or a letter from your last employer confirming your employment and salary instead.
#7. What should I do if I suspect someone created fake pay stubs?
It would be best to confront the suspected individual first. After all, it is illegal to make fake pay stubs, especially when used to prove someone’s income or verify their employment status.
If you catch someone using falsified pay stubs for legal transactions, contact the authorities. For example, if you discover that your employer is using fake pay stubs, file a report at the nearest Department of Labor (Wage and Hour Division) office.