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What Are the Penalties for Credit Card Theft

Posted on November 21st, 2017

Everyone who owns a credit card should worry about the risk of fraudulent use – even if they’ve taken steps to prevent it. The theft and use of someone else’s credit card falls into the category of “identity theft” and includes serious punishment for committing this crime. Understand what credit card fraud is, how it happens, and what penalties a person convicted of this crime might face.

Credit Card Fraud Law

The law sets in place legal parameters for what fraudulent use is and the punishment a person will face if caught committing this act. The legal definition of credit card fraud is the deceitful or unauthorized use of someone else’s credit card account. The laws enforcing punishment for this act exist at all levels of government.

Types of Fraud

Those who would take control of another person’s account to spend money concoct devious schemes to accomplish this and trap a person. The crimes break down into two broad categories: card present or card not present.

For the first category, a thief must steal the physical credit card and make use of it in a store or online or to get cash advances at an ATM machine. Schemes to create new accounts using someone’s identity fall into this category, as do attempts to change a person’s address on existing accounts to report credit cards as lost to get replacements sent to the thief.

For the second category, a thief commits some form of fraud without needing the physical card. Thieves steal the card’s numbers through some nefarious means in such a way that the owner isn’t aware of what’s happening. They do this using different methods, including placing skimming machines on ATMs or gas pumps to capture the card information when the customer uses the machine or simply taking pictures of it.

Phishing sites present another avenue for thieves to get your data. Tricking a person into entering his or her data into a fake site gives thieves the information they need without them ever coming close to the victim. Databases that house consumer credit card information present an irresistible target for hackers to break into and steal the data.

Not all methods involve technology. A cashier or waiter that takes your card to pay for something can write down the card’s information – and you would never know. After that, the thief would use that data to make fraudulent purchases, which you may not spot until months after the thief stole your data.

Fraud Penalties

Laws defining the penalties for this crime are broad so as not to exclude specific ways perpetrators commit these kinds of crime. Punishment covers general fraudulent use and assigns a penalty by how much money the thief stole. This penalty accounts for changes in values for anything purchased illegally, meaning a small purchase of an item that accrues value could carry a very heavy fine when convicted.

Credit card fraud constitutes a real danger to many consumers across the world. A person can fall victim to it at any time if he or she fails to take the proper precautions to protect his or her identity.