Dozens of U.S. stimulus checks have allegedly been incorrectly mailed to residents of Austria, according to a report by The Washington Post.
One resident, 73-year-old Manfred Barnreiter, told the Post that he and his wife had each received $1,200 and were initially concerned it might be a scam. But after taking the checks to the bank, the money appeared in their accounts the next day.
Neither Barnreiter nor his wife are U.S. residents or have citizenship in the country, although Barnreiter briefly worked in the country in the 1960s and still receives a pension from that time, according to the report. Barnreiter said he planned to use the money in the U.S. when he got a chance. And although he said he felt bad about the mix-up, he said in the grand scheme, the money is "peanuts."
Numerous Austrian banks have confirmed that they received queries from confused customers over the last few weeks, and representatives of three local banks said they'd cashed around 200 U.S. checks by Wednesday (Sept. 9), the Post reported. It's unclear how many have been cashed by ineligible Austrian residents compared to those cashed by U.S. residents living abroad. The problem has also cropped up in other countries.
Last month, NPR reported that thousands of foreigners had received checks after only working temporarily in the U.S. At that time, government officials said the cause could be improperly filed tax returns. Those who cash checks they're not eligible to receive could have their visa status affected or find it more difficult to reenter the country.
The stimulus checks were an integral part of the initial CARES Act from March, which the government rushed to pass in order to help people as quickly as possible. The plan has seen several mistakes, including numerous checks sent to people who had died. Others got smaller payments than they expected or none at all. The IRS has been working to correct such errors.