Credit card fraud involves intentionally using a credit card or credit card numbers to obtain goods, money, or services through defrauding another person or the credit card issuer. Credit card fraud is taken seriously by law enforcement and the credit card companies in Virginia. A conviction for credit card fraud can result in jail time and heavy fines.
Just because the police accuse you of credit card fraud does not mean that you will be convicted of a crime. If you were accused of credit card theft or fraud in Charlottesville, talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer to understand your rights and defenses.
Credit Card Fraud Laws in Virginia
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-195, a person is guilty of credit card fraud when, with intent to defraud any person, the person:
- Uses a stolen credit card, stolen credit card number, or expired card for the purpose of obtaining money, goods, services, or anything else of value;
- Obtains money, goods, services or anything else of value by representing that he or she is the holder of a credit card, without the consent of the cardholder;
- Obtains money from an issuer by use of a credit card machine or ATM when he or she knows that such advance will exceed the available credit.
An example could include a nephew taking his elderly uncle's credit card to buy a video game console without his consent by representing himself to be the holder of the card.
Credit card fraud may also occur when a person authorized by a credit card issuer to accept the card commits fraud. This includes intentionally defrauding the issuer or cardholder by:
- Furnishing money, goods, services, or anything of value upon presentation of a stolen credit card, stolen card number, or with knowledge the card is expired or revoked;
- Remitting to an issuer a transaction which is in excess of the monetary amount authorized by the cardholder.
An example could include a restaurant owner who changes a $10 tip on a credit card to $18 to charge the credit card company $8 more than the cardholder issued.
Credit Card Theft
Credit card theft is a separate offense in Virginia. An individual who takes another's credit card and uses it to make a purchase could potentially be charged with both credit card theft and credit card fraud.
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-192, a person is guilty of credit card theft when he or she:
- Takes, obtains, or withholds a credit card or credit card number without the consent of the cardholder;
- Receives a credit card or credit card number with the intent to use, sell, or transfer it to another person;
- Receives and retains a lost, mislaid, or mistakenly delivered credit card or card number with the intent to use, sell, or transfer the card to another person;
- Sells or buys a credit card or card number; or
- Receives cards or card number issued in the names of two or more persons which he or she has reason to know were gained through credit card fraud.
Penalties for Credit Card Fraud and Theft in Virginia
The penalties for credit card fraud and theft can depend on the extent of the fraud, how many cards or numbers were involved, and whether there were multiple people involved. There may also be other related charges involved, including identity theft or using a fake ID.
Credit card theft is considered grand larceny, no matter the value of the theft involved or if the individual never even used the stolen card or card number. A conviction for grand larceny credit card theft can include up to 20 years in jail.
Credit card fraud penalties may depend on the value of fraud involved. Credit card fraud is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor if the value of the money, goods, or services involved is less than $500. The penalties for a conviction of a Class 1 misdemeanor include up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
If the total value of the credit card fraud is $500 or more over any 6-month period, the credit card fraud is a Class 6 felony. The penalties for a Class 6 felony conviction include up to 5 years in prison.
If any person conspires or works with another to commit credit card fraud, the crime can be charged as a Class 6 felony, regardless of the value of the fraud involved.
Credit Card Fraud Investigations
The credit card companies are often the first to get involved in a credit card fraud investigation. The company is alerted to possible fraud by the cardholder, merchant, or purchases are flagged as suspicious. The credit card company may initiate an investigation and then report the case to law enforcement.
These investigations often involve gathering electronic records, requesting phone or internet service provider (ISP) records, reviewing surveillance footage, and interviewing witnesses. As soon as you become aware of a possible credit card fraud investigation, you should consider contacting an experienced Virginia defense attorney.
Charlottesville Credit Card Fraud Defense Attorney
A fraud conviction can leave you with a criminal record and make it difficult to find a job or gain a position of trust in a company. If you are accused of or charged with credit card theft or fraud in Charlottesville, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney about how to fight criminal charges and avoid a criminal record. Contact me today for a free consultation.