Imagine trying to use a credit card you know you have room left on only to be denied because you are over the limit or finding charges on your statement you know you didn’t make. This is how thousands of Americans each year learn that they have become the victim of credit card fraud.
Being a victim of credit card theft is frustrating, aggravating, and costly. Once the damage has been done, it may take years to get your credit report back in order. In the meantime, your credit can be destroyed, causing you to miss out on opportunities like being able to buy a new car or a home.
In some cases, the culprit will never be caught. In others, often heartbreakingly, the credit card thief will be someone you knew and trusted. It may have even been an acquaintance you let into your home. No matter who took your card information, you will have legal options regarding credit card theft punishment.
This article will provide you with information about the types of punishment the courts can assign to someone who has been charged with credit card theft, the penalties involved, and what to do if you’ve been a victim.
Credit Card Theft and Legal Punishment
Credit card theft is a federal crime that has exasperated the legal system.Visit this site to learn more about federal crimes. The law does not take this crime lightly. In fact, in this state, the law mandates a penalty of jail time and a fine. As a victim of credit card theft, you can press charges against the perpetrator.
Credit card theft is defined as knowingly using credit card information or an actual credit card to cheat someone and profit financially. A sentence for credit card theft will typically will range from six to 12 months. The severity of the crime will impact the length of jail time the perpetrator will serve.
Manipulating credit account information and data is also illegal. This crime can include:
- Stealing a card
- Creating a counterfeit credit card
- Forging a card
- Altering a card
- Altering information that is related to a card
Even when the card has been revoked, is expired, or is otherwise no longer valid, this is still illegal. It is absolutely within your rights to pursue charges to the fullest extent of the law.
Published Credit Card Information Online
Thieves who steal your credit card or its information cannot legally publish or disseminate details regarding the card. “Publishing” is any kind of communication that is verbal, online, or written.
It is also illegal to divulge material from a credit card or banking account. Publishing credit card documentation information is a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of six months in jail.
Credit Card Theft Penalties
The legal authorities can identify the crime as petty or grand theft. The actual time in jail depends on the severity of the crime and the financial loss to the victim.
Penalties for Grand Theft
Grand theft takes place when the accumulated value of stolen goods is valued at more than $950 over a consecutive six-month period. Punishment for a grand theft crime is up to one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
Penalties for Petty Theft
As the name suggests, the law considers a crime that takes property worth less than $950 value as petty theft. A petty theft credit card conviction can result in six months in jail and a potential fine of $1,000.
What to Do If You’ve Been a Victim of Credit Card Theft
If you’ve been a victim of credit card theft, take the following steps right away. Even if you haven’t been a victim, if you have a credit card account you are still at risk. Many of the following steps can greatly reduce your risk of having your card or information stolen.
- Contact the credit card company and report the theft
- Change your PIN and passwords
- File a police report
- Contact credit reporting agencies
- Closely monitor your accounts and bank statements
- Get copies of your credit reports
- Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission
If you’ve been a victim of credit card theft, you are far from alone. In 2019, there were 650,572 cases of identity theft in the United States. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of identity and credit card theft, following the above steps will go a long way toward preventing it.
Interesting related article: “What is Identify Theft?“