As credit card transactions have become the norm all over the U.S. and in most industrialized countries, credit card fraud has also become much more prevalent. In fact, credit card issuers and card users, and merchants collectively lose billions each year to credit card fraud. Unlike stealing cash, stealing access to other people’s credit cards may feel like an impersonal, faceless crime as it does not usually involve violence or even a face to face encounter with the victim. Nevertheless, the federal government punishes credit card offenses severely. Therefore, what may seem like an easy, nearly harmless ploy to get money can land a person in prison for years. Like many other white collar crimes, credit card fraud can occur in several different ways. Moreover, credit card fraud accusations often arise together with related charges it is common for fraudulent schemes overlap with at least one other white collar crime, depending on the manner in which the scheme is executed. As a federal ofense, credit card fraud is aggressively prosecuted, and those who are under investigation in or near Broward County should immediately seek the assistance of a Naples or Fort Lauderdale credit card fraud lawyer.
Credit application and assumed identity fraud
Application fraud takes place when a person provides false information when applying for credit. This is often the second step in many identity theft schemes in which perpetrators have stolen sensitive data such as social security numbers and dates of birth in the interest of using the information to make fraudulent purchases. Similarly, in cases of assumed identity fraud, a person may use a temporary address and false name to apply for a credit card. However, identity theft is not a necessity for a person’s actions to constitute credit application fraud. Some people may use a friend or relative’s information to secure a credit card; this is also considered fraud unless the friend or relative is willing cosigner and they are properly named as such on the application.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Card not present
In many credit card fraud cases, an individual makes unauthorized purchases by using information from another person’s card. Card not present (CNP) fraud occurs when Person A gains access to Person B’s credit card number and expiration date and uses the information to make purchases online, through the mail, or over the phone. In response to an increased awareness of CNP fraud, merchants began requiring the card’s verification code, which has served as a slight deterrent. CNP fraud is sometimes committed when there is a relatively close relation to the cardholder and the unauthorized user did not think using the information would constitute a major crime. Using any aspect of someone else’s credit card without permission is a crime in Naples, Fort Lauderdale and throughout Florida. Therefore, it is always better to obtain permission or to simply ask the cardholder to make the purchase in the interest of avoiding potentially costly confusion.
Skimming and counterfeit cards
Skimming refers to the process of extracting credit card data from the card’s magnetic strip by digitally or manually creating an imprint. Card data is extracted when either the cardholder or another person swipes the card through a small device known as a skimmer. Skimmers are sometimes illegally fitted onto standard ATMs; therefore, a person might completely unknowingly swipe his or her card through a skimmer and become a victim of credit card fraud. In other cases, credit card fraud rings might include people who work as restaurant servers, cashiers, or other professions that allow regular, trusted access to customers’ credit cards. The information is then used to create an entirely new counterfeit card with the same information.
Why it’s a federal crime
Individuals who are accused of credit card fraud may be charged in federal or state court. A person who steals his or her family member’s credit card information and makes a relatively small purchase like clothing or a smartphone would likely face charges in state court. Organized groups of people who execute fraud amounting to $150,000 or more are much more likely to be investigated by the FBI or Federal Trade Commission and be charged in federal court. If convicted of credit card fraud under federal law, an individual may be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison in very extreme cases. To lessen the chances for imprisonment or large fines, anyone who believes he or she may be under investigation for credit card fraud should contact an experienced credit card fraud defense lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, Naples or Broward County immediately after being charged.
Consult with a fraud defense lawyer immediately
People are often unaware of how critical the investigation stage of the criminal justice process can be. During this time, police are working to gather information to help them zero in on a suspect and eventually bring charges against someone. Law enforcement agencies often request voluntary interviews with people who later find themselves facing formal charges. Therefore, what a person says during a seemingly harmless interview can later cause trouble if he or she is eventually charged of a crime. Having a defense attorney present when speaking to police can help the individual aid the natural compulsion to “over share” in the interests of appearing cooperative to law enforcement. In some cases, a person may be charged with credit card fraud in situations in which the person legitimately believed he or she had permission to use the card. In other situations, an individual may have participated in an identity theft ring or credit card fraud operation as a result of having been coerced by others who were also involved. A Fort Lauderdale credit card fraud lawyer can provide a free case evaluation and determine the best way to respond to these serious federal charges.