Virginia Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud is a wide-ranging term that deals with both the theft of credit card information and fraud used to obtain that information, whether it is a credit card, debit card,  a gift card, or some other type of electronic payment device that is referred to as an access device.

If a person is being investigated for a potential charge of credit card fraud, he or she would be well served to contact an experienced fraud attorney as soon as possible. A Virginia credit card fraud attorney can help manage the investigation and prevent the government from obtaining a statement from him or her that could potentially harm his or her defense.

How Credit Card Theft Occurs

There are two main ways that credit card theft can occur. One is by the simple act of stealing a credit card. If a person takes a credit card from a person’s wallet or out of their pocket and uses it, it is credit card theft. There are also more sophisticated ways that credit card theft can occur, including theft of credit card numbers obtained by using a skimming device or other electronic means by which a person can procure the credit card information that they are not entitled to have. The electronic ways are becoming a bit more prolific these days; theft of a physical card is rare anymore. Generally, thieves are looking to procure these numbers in an electronic way so that the victim of the theft is none the wiser until it is too late.

Skimming

Credit card skimming is a fairly new thing that is happening more and more often. Skimming is the use of a swiping device in which an individual swipes a credit card and that device immediately steals all of the pertinent information about that card, including the user’s full name, address, the numbers of the card, the three or four digit security code associated with the card, and the expiration date. Every relevant piece of information about a person’s card and how to use it can be stolen by a skimmer and device. It is usually a fairly small device and it takes no time whatsoever.  One simple swipe and the theft immediately has all the information that he or she needs to conduct transactions with that credit number in a person’s name.

Skimming falls under the definition of credit card fraud under Virginia law, so it is crucial to contact an experienced Virginia credit card fraud lawyer if charged.

Credit Card Fraud Penalties

Credit card fraud in Virginia is considered to be a Class 6 felony if the amount involved is in excess of $200 within a six-month time frame. If the value of the loss does not exceed $200, it is considered to be a Class 1 misdemeanor. A Class 6 felony is punishable by one to five years in prison; a Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail.

Building a Defense

The intent is everything in fraud-based cases; specifically, if the person took the credit card number with the intent to use it in a fraudulent way. If so, the government will be able to prove their case, but if not, a Virginia credit card theft lawyer would have an available defense. Fraud cannot be fraud without intent to defraud, so the intent of the actor is critical. There is no way that a person could take credit card information without the intent to defraud that person, but one never knows what was going on in the mind of a person who committed that act.

Lawyers always look to intent first. Then they look at the physical evidence involved with the case and the financial evidence involved with the case to help determine whether or not the government can prove the person did things that they are saying. The vast majority of these credit card cases are electronic in nature, so there is rarely physical contact between the victim and the perpetrator. Proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is the one who did the things that the government is saying were done can be difficult. Every case is different and taken on a case-by-case basis, but those are some of things that lawyers look for.

However, the prosecution needs to prove that a person took, without the consent of the owner, the credit card information that can be used to procure goods or services in that person’s name. Credit card theft is considered a fraud offense and a serious crime in Virginia just like credit card fraud. It is considered to be one and the same under Virginia law.

Role of a Virginia Credit Card Fraud Lawyer

A Virginia credit card theft attorney can assist a person in one of two ways. If they are not guilty of the credit card theft, they can investigate the case and present evidence in the person’s defense to prevent the person from being found guilty. Conversely, if the person is guilty of the credit card theft, lawyers will put together information that will help the government understand that this is a good person who committed an offense, but nevertheless, is deserving of a reduced level of consequence based upon their previous laybacks. A Virginia credit card theft lawyer calls that a mitigation package. Whether or not a person is guilty, a lawyer can help the person by either being found not guilty or by softening the landing when the person ends up in a court.