Spending goes up around the holiday season, including credit card transactions. Unfortunately, some criminals use this opportunity to fraudulently collect others’ credit card information, which is commonly referred to as skimming.
A rash of credit card fraud was recently discovered in Union County, including several reports of suspicious, unauthorized bank transactions.
Police report that the card information was likely obtained through the use of skimmers. These devices are illicitly installed on credit card readers, and then used to collect credit card information.
As of this writing, this investigation is ongoing, and police are on the lookout for this and other instances of credit card fraud over the holiday season.
In fact, right now law enforcement is on high alert for anything that looks suspicious, which means that some officers might become a bit overzealous in their efforts, acting too quickly or going beyond the bounds of the law to catch supposed fraudsters.
If you use a credit or debit card, as most of us do, it’s important to be aware of what exactly constitutes credit card fraud in North Carolina, and how to avoid it. To this end, we’ve provided a guide covering how our state defines credit card fraud, and how the offense is prosecuted.
How Credit Card Fraud Charges Work in North Carolina
Financial Card Fraud
North Carolina laws very specifically outline what constitutes credit card fraud. The following acts are considered financial card fraud, which is a Class I felony:
- Using a card that you know was illegally obtained through theft or a fraudulent credit card application.
- Obtaining money, merchandise, services, or anything else of value by using the card without the cardholder’s permission, and falsely claiming it is your own.
- Representing that you own a card that has not been issued to fraudulently obtain anything of value.
- Using the credit card of another without that party’s consent.
- Obtaining control over a card as a security for debt.
- Depositing money that is not yours into your bank account.
- Receiving anything of value that was purchased with illegally deposited funds.
- Making false statements on credit card applications.
- Falsely claiming that you did not receive the goods you paid for.
Sometimes, it’s possible to inadvertently commit what could look like credit card fraud to law enforcement. For example, if you mistakenly misrepresent your income on a credit card application, this could potentially result in being brought up on charges.
Importantly, these acts must be committed with the intent to defraud, and a legitimate mistake of fact would be a solid defense. However, you could still be brought up on charges, resulting in a costly legal battle that would be damaging to your reputation.
If you do find yourself charged, remember that credit card fraud charges do not equate to a conviction. Knowing the laws surrounding this offense and working with a skilled NC criminal attorney is the best way to fight back and beat fraud charges.
Financial Transaction Card Theft
The following acts would constitute financial transaction card theft, which is a Class I felony:
- Taking the credit or debit card of another without consent and with the intent to use it or transfer it to another party.
- Receiving a card you know to be lost or stolen with the intent to use it or transfer it to a party other than its owner.
- Buying or selling a credit card to someone when you are not the cardholder.
- Using a scanning device with the intent to collect others’ credit card information.
What If an Illegal Act in North Carolina Nets You Federal Credit Card Fraud Charges?
Truly serious credit card fraud offenses may be prosecuted federally. Many credit card fraud offenses end up falling under both state and federal jurisdiction, which gives federal courts the option of taking the case on if they wish.
The following factors make federal credit card fraud prosecution likely:
- Crimes that involve federal organizations. For example, obtaining credit card information by stealing the cardholder’s mail.
- Crimes that cross state lines, such as buying or selling stolen credit card numbers online.
- Criminal history of past fraud crimes.
As a rule, federal prosecution results in more severe sentencing, including strictly enforced mandatory minimums. Additionally, federal courts have greater resources to investigate, so it’s likely that the case against you will be stronger.
What’s the point of all this?
Simply put: take care. Particularly at this time of year, police and others are watching for credit card fraud because they know that more people are buying things for the holidays, which means they may not be as careful with their cards.