First things first. It is generally a bad idea to lie and it is even more so when dealing with businesses contracts. Never lie to obtain a payday loan or to any other business, ever. Also, this article is not be construed as legal advice or to be used as such. If you have committed one of the following offenses and are being sued or spoken to by the authorities, then consult with proper legal counsel and stop reading things you find on the Internet. Generally speaking, it's unlikely you will go to jail for lying to a payday loan company but as with all legal matters it depends on intent and the particulars of the situation.
Committing identity theft is a felony and can be prosecuted resulting in jail time and/or a fine. If you have used a stolen identity when filling out a payday loan application and it is subsequently discovered then it could result in an arrest and possible jail time if convicted. This will not result from the payday loan company per se but because the police were notified and information was provided resulting in a criminal investigation and successful prosecution.
Committing fraud or the act to defraud is knowingly lying about certain information with the sole intent of benefiting financially from the lie. It is possible to apply for a payday loan without committing identity theft but still provide false or doctored information such as fake checking account documents or employer information to be verified using known false contacts. This may also be viewed as larceny depending on the facts of the case. Both fraud and larceny are considered criminal offenses and may be prosecuted by the attorney general's office.
So far we've discussed criminal offenses that could possibly result when lying to a payday loan company which may or may not result in prosecution and jail time. If you're successful in receiving a payday loan through criminal means it may also result in a civil lawsuit. Identity theft and fraud are criminal actions which are prosecuted by the state. A payday loan company however, may seek to recoup the stolen funds, assuming they have been spent and are immediately available as evidence, through a civil lawsuit. Civil matters are separate issues brought by individual parties and not the state.
Minor erroneous information incorrectly provided on a payday loan application is unlikely to result in either criminal or civil penalties. Honest errors such as transposing contact phone numbers or putting down outdated employment information may not result in criminal or civil proceedings. This is partly because it could be an honest mistake that any consumer could make. It also has to do with a company's policies and procedures and due diligence which would verify an applicant's information prior to issuing a loan. If a payday loan company does not verify a checking account or employer then the onus is on them for not taking appropriate steps to protect their financial interests.
When the state is trying to determine whether a customer should be arrested and possibly go to jail for lying to a payday loan company, a large part of the decision is based on criminal intent and facts of the situation. The same holds true for pursuing a civil lawsuit by the loan company. Fraud, larceny, embezzlement or identity theft are different than accidentally using old information or writing down a wrong phone number. Professional investigation and common sense can often differentiate intent from honest mistakes. The best policy however, as everyone knows, is to always tell the truth and then you rarely have to worry about going to jail or getting sued.