We often discuss the pitfalls of “quick fixes” to financial woes. Payday loans, for example, can draw a cash-strapped consumer into an endless cycle of debt. Interest payments accumulate, more loans are necessary, and the guy who just needed to make it to the end of the week is now up to his ears in debt. Still, for the most part, the consequences are financial. Generally, in this country we don’t arrest people and toss them into prison for being in debt.
Some quick fixes are a little more dangerous. There can be criminal penalties for what look like relatively harmless acts. In our last post, for example, we talked about making false statements on mortgage applications. These are not minor slips, the typographical errors like transposing numbers or misspelling Massachusetts (Illinois is so much easier by comparison). These are things like overstating your income or indicating you are employed when you are not. That is fraud, and that comes with jail time.
Another common dilemma: The credit card payment is due just a few days before the paycheck arrives. Rather than calling the card company to ask for a different date or a grace period, a consumer may decide to play a little Russian roulette with his bank account. He writes a check and crosses his fingers that it doesn’t clear the bank before he deposits his paycheck — otherwise, he’ll be faced with the bank’s overdraft fees.
In Illinois, he could also face jail time and a stiff penalty. Writing a bad check is a crime of deception. Depending on the circumstances, a simple attempt to head off a late fee can cost so much more.
It is never a crime to ask for help, especially if you are having trouble making mortgage payments or paying even the minimum on a credit card.
Source: Bankrate.com, “6 money habits that are illegal,” Marcie Geffner, accessed Aug. 20, 2015