Kelly Alsip paid off her student loan four years ago.
She did not, however, delete the link from her online bill-pay list.
When the Plainfield resident went to make a $500 payment on her car loan in 2012, she hit the wrong link.
Instead of paying the money to U.S. Bank, she paid it to the U.S. Department of Education.
Realizing her mistake, Alsip called the federal agency and requested a refund. Roughly six weeks later, she received a check for $500.
Alsip thought she had put the episode behind her. But on Jan. 30, almost two years later, she received another $500 in the mail.
The U.S. Department of Treasury check arrived without explanation; Alsip assumes it is a second repayment for her 2012 mistake.
Unsure how to proceed, she tried calling the federal government.
That didn't go well.
"I called everyone I could," Alsip said. "I said, 'I think it's a clerical error.' No one has been able to tell me why it was sent or what it was for or what I should do with it."
Friends told her to cash it.
"I'm getting all kinds of suggestions from all kinds of people," she said. "Some people are saying, '$500 is nothing to the federal government.' But I don't feel comfortable with that. To me, that's stealing, and I don't want to do that."
Don't get her wrong: If she's entitled to the money, she'll gladly take it.
"I said, 'Oh, my gosh, that would be awesome. I could get this; I could get that,'" Alsip said. "But I wouldn't do that. I want the Treasury Department to say why."
Unable to make any headway on her own, she emailed What's Your Problem?
"I guess I just want to know, what do I do with the check?" she said.
The Problem Solver called a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education, who said she has no idea why Alsip received the check and her agency would have no way to find out. The spokeswoman suggested Alsip call the department's National Payment Center or the Direct Loans Service Center.
Alsip tried both. She gave up on the first number after waiting more than 10 minutes without getting connected to a customer service agent. The second number was no longer in service, she said.
The Problem Solver also called a spokesman for the U.S. Treasury Department. That spokesman said he, too, had no idea and directed Alsip to call the Treasury Department's Fiscal Management Service office in Kansas City.
After making another round of calls, she finally got a human being on the phone. That person instructed her to call another person in a different office.
Alsip was given a general number but told to use the dial-by-name directory.
"His name was not found," Alsip said. "The operator was not available. I never got a human to speak with, just automated messages."
So the mystery of the $500 check remains. If Alsip ever finds out why the federal government sent her the money or what she should do with it, the Problem Solver will provide an update.