Credit and debit card fraud is one of this country’s fastest growing crimes. According to Massachusetts law, this type of fraud can include a range of different offenses. These include illegally using credit cards in order to have a monetary gain. The laws in Massachusetts have been designed to be very clear on the consequences of credit and debit card fraud.
The term ‘credit card’ is used to refer to a device or instrument issued in order to obtain things of value. Credit cards can also be known as credit plates. They can be issued with or without a fee and they can be used for the purchase of various things, such as goods or services, as well as for obtaining emergency funds.
Laws and Penalties
The laws in Massachusetts explicitly forbid:
• Purposefully making false statements just to get a credit card
• Stealing credit or debit cards with the intention to sell or use them
• Receiving a credit card that is known to be stolen and keeping it in order to sell or use it
• Buying or selling credit cards without authorization
• Keeping and using a credit card that was delivered to the wrong person or address
• Making a fraudulent credit card
• Using other people’s credit cards without their explicit permission
• Using a credit card in a way as described above in order to obtain services, goods or money with a value of over $250.
Identity theft often goes hand in hand with credit card fraud. In these cases, the criminal does not have to actually have the victims’ cards. All they need is their personal details, or their credit card number. So long as the information is able to identify the victims, such as their dates of birth and social security numbers, someone is able to apply for credit cards in their name. In this case, they would be charged with both credit card fraud and identity theft.
The crime can be trialed either as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the nature of the crime, the value of goods that were obtained, and past criminal history. Convicted defendants often face a prison or jail sentence and have to pay both fines and restitution.
Someone who is an identity theft victim is entitled to start a civil suit. In these cases, the costs incurred as a result of identity theft may be awarded to the victim. These will include the court costs, attorney fees, and the costs of clearing the victim’s credit history.
Credit Card Fraud Defenses
In most cases, defense against credit card fraud charges focuses on the defendants’ mental health. The state has the burden of proof to demonstrate that the defendants knew that they were using, possessing or selling something that didn’t belong to them, and they must prove intent of defrauding someone else. Many attorneys will try to demonstrate that the defendants did not know it was a stolen credit card or that they didn’t mean to fraudulently use it. Taking this line of defense will require very deep investigation of the fraudulent act itself.
It is also not uncommon to use the defense of mistaken identity against allegations of credit card fraud. It is very rare for an eyewitness to have any involvement in these types of cases. As such, it is all too easy to make a mistake when it comes to someone’s identity.
Some attorneys will recommend their clients make a Fourth Amendment challenge. In many cases, evidence pointing to credit card fraud will be seized by investigative officers from a defendant’s home or place of work. If this was not done properly, then a good attorney will be able to force suppression of evidence.
It is also important to remember that we live in a digital age. As a result, a lot of credit card fraud happens online. Sometimes, hackers or viruses can take over someone else’s IP address, which means that someone may be accused of a crime that they truly didn’t commit. If this happens, an IT expert may need to be called in as a witness.
Statute of Limitations
Under 18 USC 3282, credit card fraud is classed as a non-capital offense. This means that the statute of limitations is five years from the day on which the alleged offense was committed. However, the statute can be tolled if the defendant has spent any time out of state since the date the offense was allegedly committed.
Credit Card Fraud Cases
• Banks favor finger prints over security questions – More and more banks in Massachusetts are now using fingerprints or other biometrics in order to identify their customers, favoring this over security questions. This is in an effort to combat credit card fraud.
• Suspects arrested in credit card fraud case – Some $125,000 worth of merchandise has been recovered after four suspects, one of whom is from Massachusetts, were arrested on suspected credit card fraud. They tried to use stolen credit cards to make purchases at San Carlos Best Buy.
• Secret Service mandate now includes credit card fraud protection – The Secret Service was first instated in 1901, when President William McKinley was assassinated. Their sole role was to provide protection to the president. Today, however, their mandate has grown and even includes credit card fraud.
• Two people charged with larceny and credit card fraud – Two men are facing ten charges of larceny and ten charges of credit card fraud.