People may think of large-scale schemes and big organizations when they think of the term credit card fraud. However, credit card fraud can be committed by the average person. Many people use their credit and debit cards on a daily basis, and there are many opportunities for fraudulent activity to take place. The potential consequences of such a charge can be severe, however, the charges can be lowered or dropped altogether with a strong legal defense.
What Is Credit Card Fraud?
Credit card fraud occurs when someone uses a credit or debit card to obtain money or property when they have not been authorized to do so. Many card numbers are stolen from websites online, but someone finding a credit card on the ground and using it counts as fraud as well. There are many different actions that can result in credit card fraud charges.
Fraud by False Statements
If someone lies on their credit card application and receives a line of credit they would have otherwise been denied for, they have technically committed fraud. This includes lying about their name, social security number, address, or income. This is an especially serious crime when someone tries to get a credit card in someone else’s name by filling out an entire application with their personal information.
Fraud by Possessing or Stealing Another Person’s Card
Anyone who takes someone else’s credit or debit card with the intent to sell it or use it without that person’s consent has committed a crime in the state of Wisconsin. This is true even if they do not end up using or selling the card. Specifically, it is illegal to:
- Take a card from another person who did not provide their consent for their card to be taken
- Receive a card from someone knowing they stole it
- Receive a stolen card from someone with the intent to sell it
- Receive a lost card or misdelivered card and proceed to use, sell, or gift it
- Sell a credit card in any fashion
- Purchase a credit card from someone who isn’t the card issuer
- Receive a card from someone as a security for a debt they owe with the intent to defraud the owner or issuer
Fraud by Forgery
It is illegal to possess credit or debit cards that are counterfeit or have been altered. It is also illegal to create such cards. Creating and using counterfeit cards can lead to serious penalties in the state of Wisconsin.
Fraudulent Use of Financial Transaction Cards
There are ways a Wisconsin citizen can commit credit card fraud without stealing or forging actual cards. These forms of fraud can be just as serious in the eyes of the law, as can the penalties. Examples include:
- Using a credit card knowing it has expired or been revoked
- Someone using their own credit card or allowing other people to use it to try defrauding someone
- Using a fake or stolen card at an ATM machine with the knowledge that the card is fraudulent
- Intercepting information, such as through a credit card skimming machine, at an ATM with the intent to use that information for fraudulent purposes
- Receiving money or valuable goods through someone else’s fraudulent ATM use
- Providing goods to someone with the knowledge that the card they’re using is stolen or falsified
- Being in possession of an incomplete card, such as a card missing certain imprints, with the intent to finish it without the card issuer’s knowledge
Credit card fraud can be committed in a plethora of different ways. In fact, some people may commit fraud without even realizing they’re doing it. That’s why it’s important for anyone accused of credit card fraud to have an experienced and dedicated attorney by their side. An attorney can help them create a strong defense strategy in the hopes of having their charges lowered or dropped altogether.
Potential Penalties for Credit Card Fraud in Wisconsin
The state of Wisconsin has created many laws regarding the use of financial transaction cards, as well as criminal statutes associated with those laws. The potential consequences of a credit card fraud conviction are serious.
A person will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for credit card theft, possession of falsified credit cards, or illegally using a credit card to by less than $2,500 worth of property within a 6-month period. If convicted, they can face a prison sentence up to 9 months long as well as a fine of up to $10,000.
Anyone who obtains between $2,500 and $5,000 worth of property within a 6-month period by using counterfeit credit cards or cards that do not belong to them will be charged with a Class I felony. Felony convictions are extremely serious and have the potential to alter the way a person lives out the rest of their life. The consequences of a Class I felony conviction include a prison sentence as long as 3 and a half years as well as a fine up to $10,000.
If someone uses fake or stolen credit cards to obtain between $5,000 and $10,000 worth of property in a 6-month period, they will receive a Class H felony charge. This is a more serious charge than a Class I felony. If convicted, they could face up to 6 years in prison as well as a fine worth up to $10,000.
Someone who obtains more than $10,000 worth of property in a 6-month period through the use of fraudulent or stolen credit cards will be charged with a Class G felony. Class G felony convictions are life-altering, and sentencing may include a prison sentence up to 10 years long. A convicted person may also receive fines worth up to $25,000.
Some people convicted of credit card fraud will be required to pay restitution as part of their sentencing. This includes paying the card owner or issuer the amount of money they stole through fraudulent credit card use. They may also be required to return the property they obtained.
Defenses Against Credit Card Fraud Charges
Despite the serious nature of credit card fraud accusations, there are some commonly used legal strategies that accused people can use alongside their legal team to try getting their charges lowered or dropped. However, every case is unique, and an experienced attorney will use a range of strategies specific to the situation the client they are working with is involved in.
Lack of Intent
For someone to be convicted of credit card fraud charges, the prosecution must prove that they intended to defraud a card owner or card issuer. A conviction can be avoided if the defendant and their legal team can prove that there was no such intent. For example, someone who received stolen cards as a gift cannot be charged if they did not know the cards were stolen.
Reasonable Belief of Permission
A conviction can only be made in a credit card fraud case if the prosecution can prove the defendant knew they were not supposed to be using the card in question. For example, if someone used a credit card they were given for emergencies only without telling the cardholder and the cardholder reported that use as fraudulent, the defendant might not be convicted if they can prove the use was really related to an emergency.
Fighting On Your Behalf
If you’ve been charged with credit card fraud and need legal counsel, contact the Law Office of Christopher J. Cherella today. Credit card fraud is a white-collar offense, and our experienced defense attorney can help determine the nature of the charges and which defense will be the most effective. Attorney Cherella keeps a small client base in order to provide all of his clients with individualized and empathetic legal representation. He will fight tirelessly to get your charges lowered or dropped entirely. Reach out at (414) 882-8382 or online to schedule a free consultation today.