As people continue to shift away from using cash, electronic forms of payment have become the norm across the United States. With the increase of payment options such as credit cards, the rate of fraud involving credit cards has also exponentially increased. Most cases that involve credit card fraud are prosecuted under state law, but many are also prosecuted under federal law. If you are facing an investigation or criminal charge related to credit card fraud, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.
What Is Credit Card Fraud?
Credit card fraud refers to any act involving the unauthorized use of a credit card, debit card, or another form of electronic payment. This can include using someone else's credit card without their permission, making purchases with a stolen credit card, purchasing items online with a counterfeit or stolen credit card number. There are various types of credit card fraud that can be prosecuted under state or federal law, depending on the nature and severity of the offense.
What Are the Different Types of Federal Credit Card Fraud?
Credit card fraud comes in many different varieties. As technology has continued to advance, so have the measures that criminals take to complete their desired actions. Federal law prohibits several different types of credit card fraud, including:
- Making purchases online with a fake or stolen credit card number
- Using another person's identity to make fraudulent purchases
- Purchasing items from an auction site with a stolen credit card number
- Creating counterfeit credit cards or stealing real ones
- Using fraudulent account numbers to open new credit accounts
- Accessing someone else's bank account information in order to make unauthorized purchases
The following federal statutes prohibit illegal credit card use:
- 18 U.S. Code Section 1344 - Fraud Involving Electronic Fund Transfers
- 18 U.S. Code Section 1029 – Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Access Devices
- 18 U.S. Code Section 1028 – Possession of Imitation Federal Reserve Notes, Bonds, etc.
The crime of credit card fraud does not require the actor to actually use a physical credit card to make a fraudulent transaction. As many transactions are completed online, simply using another's credit card number or even opening a line of credit using another's personal private information can suffice for federal charges to be authorized. Anytime that a criminal act affects interstate commerce by crossing a state line, even virtually, can result in federal criminal charges.
What Are the Potential Penalties for Federal Credit Card Fraud?
Those convicted of federal credit card fraud can face severe penalties, including significant fines and jail time. Possible sentences include up to 10 years in prison, as well as monetary fines of up to $250,000 or twice the amount of the defendant's gain from the crime. Additionally, those who have been convicted of certain types of federal crimes may also be subject to mandatory restitution payments to their victims. If you are convicted of federal credit card fraud, then your convictions are likely permanent, as there is no current way to expunge previous criminal convictions at the federal level aside from receiving a presidential pardon.
What Are Some Defenses to Federal Credit Card Fraud?
There are several potential defenses that may be available in cases of federal credit card fraud. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, your attorney may argue that you did not know that the credit card information was fraudulent or stolen or that you were coerced into participating in the fraudulent activity by another person. In some cases, it may also be possible to prove that the credit card transactions were completed while the defendant was intoxicated or under duress.
The main criminal element in any fraud case is intent. For a prosecutor to properly secure a criminal conviction, he or she must prove that you specifically intended to defraud your alleged victim. If the activity was an honest mistake, then that can be used as a defense against any charges. It is crucial to work with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who can assess your individual situation and help build a strong defense on your behalf.
In What Court Will Your Case Be Heard?
If you live in central or eastern Pennsylvania, your federal criminal case will be heard in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania or the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. If you are not happy with the decision made by these courts, you can appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The only court that is higher than a federal circuit court in the federal system is the United States Supreme Court.
How Hiring an Experienced Attorney Can Help
If you are facing any type of criminal charges, then it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side. An attorney can help you understand the charges against you and what evidence the prosecution has. Any potential defenses can be explored, and a private investigation can be launched to determine what evidence actually exists. An experienced attorney can also help you decide whether to take the case to trial or try to work out a resolution so you can avoid a trial. If you have legal questions, then call us at the Lento Law Firm today.
Why Hiring Lento Law is the Right Choice
If you are being investigated or prosecuted for credit card fraud by the federal government, then it is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped people defend countless criminal charges in several jurisdictions. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring Lento Law is the right choice to help defend your federal criminal case.