Hundreds of Austrian citizens have received coronavirus stimulus checks from the U.S. federal government even though they are not eligible for payments, according to The Washington Post.
Manfred Barnreiter, 73, thought he was initially being scammed when he received his payment.
"We quietly went to the bank . . . where we were told they'll see if it's real," Barnreiter told Austrian public broadcaster ORF, according to the Post. "Three days later, we had the money in our bank account."
Barnreiter, who worked temporarily in the United States in the 1960s, got $1,200 along with his wife. Neither lives in the United States or maintains citizenship, which is required to be eligible for the payments.
"People initially thought it's a treacherous form of fraud — but the checks were real," a spokeswoman for Austria's Oberbank told the Post.
In August, NPR reported thousands of citizens of other countries who once worked in the United States had accidentally received payments. Federal officials passed the error off on tax return errors.
Three bank branches in Austria said they had cashed about 200 U.S. stimulus checks as of Wednesday. They could not, however, confirm how many were cashed by people who were ineligible to receive the checks.
Barnreiter said he would probably use the money in the United States when travel restrictions related to coronavirus are lifted.
"Initially, I felt bad, thinking those poor Americans, maybe they need the money more urgently than we do here in Europe," he said.
"But in the grand scheme of things," Barnreiter said. "It's peanuts."
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