How strongly does the law punish credit card fraud?

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2020 | Federal Crimes

With all the stories in the news about law enforcement going after people who engage in financial fraud, you may worry what will happen if someone accuses you of using his or her credit card without permission. Punishments for credit card fraud are not always severe, though.

Sometimes credit card fraud is a minor matter and does not end with a punishment greater than a minor period in jail or just a fine. But as Nerdwallet points out, some factors can push credit card fraud charges to a higher level, necessitating tougher sentences.

The laws used for prosecution

Fraud is both a state and a federal offense, so charges against you would depend on how the laws of Pennsylvania and the federal government view your case. Since credit card fraud can be a form of identity theft, laws against stealing one’s identity may apply.

Additionally, federal law forbids the use of devices used to gather personal information. Skimmers are one example. A person who acquires credit card information through a computer may also receive prosecution under a computer crime statute. Charges under various laws like these may add up to a lengthy prison sentence.

The circumstances of the case

A prosecutor may hand down light or severe charges against you depending on the circumstances of your case. You might have an existing criminal record or no record at all. The monetary amount involved in your case may be minor or large. You might have had no criminal intent at all and your actions were a mistake.

The law will also take into account the victim of the fraud. If the victim was an elderly individual, you could incur heavier charges on account of elder abuse. Depending on the weight of the evidence, you might receive a misdemeanor charge, but it could also reach the level of a felony.