Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud is a type of theft that involves stealing and using someone’s credit card or credit card information. The term “credit card” can mean:
- ATM cards
- Banking cards
- Check cards
- Debit cards
- Credit cards
- Other types of cards related to personal transactions
Fort Lauderdale credit card fraud attorneys at The Law Offices of Richard Ansara know these crimes in Florida are prosecuted under the State Credit Card Crime Act, as codified in F.S. 817.57 – 817.685.
These statutes cover a host of credit card-related illegal acts, including:
- False statement as to financial condition or identity
- Theft/ Obtaining credit card through fraudulent means
- Fraudulent use of a credit card
- Trafficking in counterfeit credit cards
- Using expired or revoked credit cards
- Fraud by person authorized to provide goods or services
- Using a scanning device or re-encoder to defraud
- Possessing and/or transferring credit card-making equipment
- Receiving money and/or property obtained by fraudulent use of credit cards
- Alteration of credit card invoices
These acts are uniquely pursued through “aggregate prosecution.” That means that numerous fraudulent uses or actions involving a credit card within a six-month period will be treated as a single crime, rather than multiple distinct crimes.
This could be good or bad for the defendant, depending on the circumstances. The good news is you are likely to be facing a single charge, rather than a slew of charges for each transaction. The bad news is the total amount of these transactions will be added to determine the full extent of the crime. Because theft offense severity levels and penalties are generally based on the amount stolen, that means offenders face a greater likelihood of a single, more serious charge.
It’s imperative for those accused to seek counsel from an experienced defense attorney to determine the most effective strategy.
Identity Theft vs. Credit Card Fraud
The terms “identity theft” and “credit card fraud” are often used interchangeably, but they are in fact unique crimes.
Credit card fraud is actually a subset of identity theft, but it generally is not as involved as many other forms of identity theft. Usually, credit card fraud involves stealing someone’s credit card and using it almost immediately to make fraudulent purchases.
Identity theft, on the other hand, tends to be more complex. It involves unlawfully obtaining someone’s identifiers (i.e., name, social security number, passwords) and applying for credit in their name. It tends to be a longer process, and can have a more long-term adverse effect on victims.
Further, while credit card theft is typically discovered fairly quickly (because victims realize their card is missing and cancel it), identity theft can take longer to discover.
Credit Card Fraud Penalties
One of the most common charges for credit card fraud is Unauthorized Use of Credit Cards.
As explained in F.S. 817.16, prosecutors alleging this act after to show a person with an intent to defraud the issuer or credit card holder of money, goods or services uses a credit card knowing the cardholder did not provide consent. If the card is used one or two times in a six-month period and the value of the items obtained is less than $100, the crime is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. However, if there are three or more transactions and/or the money, goods or services obtained in that six-month time frame amounts to more than $100, it’s considered a third-degree felony, for which the penalty is a maximum five years in prison.
Defenses to Credit Card Fraud
In addition to the various types of pretrial and trial defenses that can be employed in any other criminal case (i.e., illegal search and seizure, expiration of statute of limitations, etc.), our attorneys handling credit card fraud cases will look to see whether one of the following defenses may apply:
- Double Jeopardy. Because of the unique way that these cases are prosecuted, most credit card and theft offenses are to be considered varying degrees of the same offense. So that means someone may be charged with multiple offenses when in fact only one is appropriate. Additional or subsequent charges stemming from the same fraud may be subject to dismissal under this defense.
- Intent to Defraud. The law requires prosecutors show there was intent to defraud the merchant and/or cardholder at the time of the transaction. If the defendant can prove there was no intent, it was an honest mistake or there was an agreement to repay the cardholder, they lack the intent necessary for conviction.
If you have been accused of credit card fraud, contact our experienced legal team to learn more about how we can help.
If you have been charged with a theft crime in South Florida, contact the Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Law Offices of Richard Ansara by calling (877) 277-3780.