Credit Card Fraud in Criminal Law

Consumer fraud – specifically credit card fraud – affects approximately twenty-five million Americans each year according to recent statistics. It is one of the easiest types of fraud for experienced criminals to commit, and unfortunately, many citizens do not realize they have been victims until years later.

Credit card fraud is the act of using lost, stolen or inactive credit cards for financial gain. It can also involve identity theft by securing a credit card in someone else’s name and using it yourself, which is a felony and punishable by up to twenty years in prison. Credit card fraud happens in businesses, at ATM’s, over the phone and on the Internet, though the most common occurrence over the last three years has been Internet credit card fraud.

The Federal Trade Commission alone handles more than 500,000 complaints of credit card fraud each year. They, along with other government and private organizations, work toward educating the public about protecting their identities as well as toward capturing criminals.

One of the major problems is that the average American has five different credit card accounts. We are notorious for pulling random credit cards from our wallets and using them to make purchases without matching receipts to specific numbers or recording those purchases for future reference. If credit card holders don’t pay attention to their bills, they might not catch instances of credit card fraud.

Further, the Internet has made it much easier for criminals to discover and use credit card information. Since Internet websites cannot request photo identification to match consumers with credit cards, it is possible to rack up numerous purchases on someone else’s credit card. Most people – myself included – have received fraudulent e-mails requesting password and account information, supposedly from the bank where they hold their credit cards. Answering such an e-mail and divulging that information could result in credit card fraud.

Although organizations like the Federal Trade Commission do what they can to protect consumers from credit card fraud, it is ultimately up to consumers themselves to do whatever they can to protect their credit. This might include being careful when making Internet purchases, keeping track of all credit cards at all times and keeping an eye on one’s credit report.

Those who are prosecuted for credit card fraud face up to twenty years in prison and fines equal to that which they stole. Credit card fraud is a felony which can be tried in either a state or a federal court; typically, credit card fraud that occurs over multiple state lines will be prosecuted by federal law enforcement rather than in state courts.

Further, the victims of credit card fraud can civilly sue the criminal who used their name for credit card fraud purposes.

Source: Associated Content