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Common Misconceptions About Credit Card Fraud

There are many common misconceptions that an individual may have about New York credit card fraud charges and cases. For example, a person may think that since the value of the items being taken or fraudulently purchased, maybe even as little as a few dollars in value, that the crime is not significant and would not result in any serious repercussions if the fraud was discovered by law enforcement or prosecutors. Another common misconception is that all of the transactions and money related to credit card transactions is covered by insurance or credit card companies’ own internal programs and policies and so there is no actual loss in the eyes of the law. Yet another common concept that gets thrown around erroneously is that there is no fraud or serious charges if a person simply found a lost credit card and used it, as opposed to stealing the actual, physical credit card.

To some extent, these misconceptions are understandable. People tend to think of themselves as good people, and justified in their actions, which can often result in willful ignorance or subconscious minimization of certain criminal actions. The truth is that any unauthorized use of another person’s credit card, or even simply their credit card information, is likely to be charged as a felony, potentially punishable by state prison time. If you have been charged with credit card fraud and are seeking an effective defense, it is imperative to consult with a New York fraud attorney as soon as possible.

Value and Use

As stated above, even when the dollar amount surrounding the fraud charge is relatively small and insignificant, the fraud-related charge will typically still stand, and it makes no difference to the fraud charge if the victim’s credit card was stolen or simply lost. Conversely, if the charged person is being accused of actually stealing the card, then no use is required to make out a felony charge – the theft alone could land the person in state prison. Taking these principles together, another way of putting things is to say that all you need is one fraudulent act to make out a charge, as opposed to some multi-step scheme that some may more commonly associate with “fraud” in the colloquial sense.

Once an individual begins using a credit card that doesn’t belong to them, they are opening themselves up to potential charges of forgeryforged instruments, and identity theft crimes.

Severity of the Crime

In some instances, an individual may have committed fraud in several different ways or committed several different fraud-related “counts” that might make up the charges in a potential indictment. For example, each stolen credit card will typically amount to a separate, additional count. Similarly, each purchase with another person’s credit card will make out a different charge, or those incidents can be combined together for a more serious charge if the total ends up over a certain monetary threshold.

Use of Business Credit Cards

Another all too common scenario, and one that will often be treated severely by a prosecutor, is where a person legally and lawfully has a credit card associated with their business or company, but they abuse their privileges and make personal transactions using the card not authorized by their employer. This will be considered a kind of fraud-related theft in most situations and will often result in felony charges. An individual in this situation could be facing career-ending allegations over an incident that may have only amounted to a few hundred dollars – hardly life changing money. Even though these transactions may not be significant, they are considered felony acts.

There are certainly situations where acts and incidents like this can happen by mistake. For example, a person honestly believes they have permission to use a girlfriend or boyfriend’s credit card and the owner of the card says they didn’t have that permission, or an employee with a business credit card thinks they’re allowed to charge airfare on the card and it turns out they’re not. Identifying the issues that may actually amount to a meaningful defense, such as lack of intent or mistake, versus factors that are more or less irrelevant to any defense in many situations, such as value or lack of possession of the physical card, is key to any plea negotiation or trial defense strategy.

Consequences of a Fraud Conviction

Another common misconception about credit card fraud is that, especially when the amount of loss is low, these are relatively minor offenses similar to a Petit Larceny, PL 155.25, for stealing something off the shelf at a Duane Reade. This could not be further from the truth. In this day and age, with the ubiquity of online commerce and credit cards, Apple Pay, and other forms of payment besides cash and check, prosecutors throughout New York City and the state are taking these kinds of fraud extremely seriously, in part because they are so hard to police, with many of the fraudsters operating overseas. When a crime is affecting a large percentage of the population, and it is difficult to catch many of the perpetrators, law enforcement will inevitably come down hard on those that they do catch, or those they suspect, in order to send a message to those they can’t. Therefore, if a credit card owner makes a complaint of only a few dollars because of a stolen or fraudulent credit card, the police will still take the charge incredibly seriously. Law enforcement is going to pull the video surveillance from wherever the individual was accused of committing credit card fraud and will engage in a much more thorough and sophisticated investigation than one might think.

If charged and convicted, an individual’s career and livelihood is at risk, not to mention the very real possibility of long-term probation, jail, or even state prison. It is important that an individual does not believe that they are not susceptible to these kinds of ramifications based on any of the misconceptions that have been discussed here. Such common misunderstandings can land a person in jail when they may have avoided that kind of situation by taking the matter more seriously and contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney at the outset.

Call the New York City defense lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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