In modern society credit and debit cards are ubiquitous – most people have more than one of each variety, and use them for the vast majority of their purchases, ranging from everyday items to more obscure or expensive acquisitions.
As credit card use has increased exponentially over the last few decades, there has been a corresponding increase in credit card fraud. Because of this, Illinois takes these types of crimes very seriously and has laid out legislation to prosecute anyone who breaks the law.
Depending upon the specific offense and value of property obtained, credit card fraud can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor, or as a Class 3 or 4 felony.
The law isn’t always as simple as “bad people doing bad things,” though. Due to the complexity of the statute, many people may even commit credit card fraud unknowingly, such as by using fake credit card numbers to sign up for free trials online, or using the credit card of another.
Yes, those are forms of fraud.
Taking some time to familiarize yourself with the different kinds of credit card fraud can prevent you from making a mistake that might cost you big time.
Making a False Statement to Procure a Credit or Debit Card
Providing false information on your credit card application, such as lying about your age or income, may be tempting, as you may get a higher credit limit or better interest rates. Unfortunately, this relatively common behavior is considered to be credit card fraud.
This offense may not be prosecuted aggressively, but if found out, you face closed accounts, interest rate spikes, poor credit history, and even the inability to open a bank account. Further, if you default on your credit card debt, you could even face criminal charges.
In Illinois this is charged as a Class 4 felony, so you face the potential of becoming a convicted felon – a better deal on your interest rate isn’t worth it.
Sale or Purchase of a Credit or Debit Card
Sale or purchase of a credit or debit card (which is usually stolen) is charged as a Class 4 Felony, and punishable by 1-3 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $25,000 and restitution.
Possession of Another’s Credit or Debit Card
Using or possessing someone else’s credit card without permission is well-known to be a criminal offense. However, did you know that even using someone else’s card with their permission can be considered a form of credit card fraud?
The legality of using someone else’s card with their permission is a gray area, and you’re unlikely to face criminal charges for doing so. However, this does violate the terms of the contract with the card issuer.
Possession of a Lost or Mislaid Credit or Debit Card
Most of us have found someone else’s lost or mislaid credit card at one time or another. If you find the card of someone else, it should either be turned in to an appropriate lost and found, or you should call the credit card company to report a found card. Purposefully keeping the card in your possession is a Class 4 felony.
Use of a Credit or Debit Card with Intent to Defraud
When you use a credit or debit card with intent to defraud, the crime is considered complete regardless of whether you are actually able to purchase anything of value. In Illinois this is a Class A misdemeanor if less than $150 worth of property is obtained in a six month period, and a Class 4 felony if over $150 of property is obtained.
Use of a Credit Card as a Security for Debt
Using a credit card as a security for debt is considered credit card fraud, and is charged as a Class 4 Felony, which is punishable by 1-3 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $25,000 and restitution.
Use of a Counterfeited, Forged, Expired, Revoked, or Unissued Credit or Debit Card
Using a fake, expired, or unissued card with intent to defraud is a criminal offense even if nothing of value is obtained by doing so – the offense is related to the intent to defraud. Many people may be committing this offense unintentionally when they use fake card numbers to sign up for free trials of online services or to receive samples of a product.
Most free trials require that you provide a credit card number, and your card is charged if you forget to cancel the service. To get around this, many people use fake credit card numbers, sometimes using websites that generate fake numbers exclusively for this purpose.
Although rarely prosecuted, this is considered credit card fraud. If you wish to sign up for a free trial, the best solution is to use your actual credit card number and set a reminder to cancel the service before your card is charged.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.