If I mistakenly was issued a second refund check, what can happen to me legally if I cash it?

UPDATED: Jan 13, 2011

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If I mistakenly was issued a second refund check, what can happen to me legally if I cash it?

Recently bought a used car, and took out an extended warranty. I decided to cancel it within the 30 days, and was promptly refunded the money I paid for the warranty. Now, 3 months later, I received another check for the same amount. Morally I know what the right thing to do is, but would like to know what can happen if I do cash the check, will I have committed a crime or can I be arrested? If so, will returning the money solve any problems created by cashing the check?

Asked on January 13, 2011 under Business Law, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Well, yes, you are technically stealing the money although you did not go in to the company and hold them up at gun point.  How it will be charged in your state will depend upon the details and the amount of the check.  Did you cash it yet?  That is unclear.  If you did not then just send it back as is with a note indicating that you believe that it is a duplicate check and that it was already refunded.  Send it certified mail return receipt requested.  If you have already cashed it then call the company and indicate that you realized that it was already paid and you inadvertently cashed it.  Tell them that you are going to send a personal check for the refund.  Also send the letter and check by certified mail confirming the conversation with so and so (take a name).  You yourself indicate here that you know what is the right thing to do.  So do it.

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