Written by attorney James Donald Garrett

Credit Card Theft, Fraud, and Forgery Under Virginia Law: The Basics

It is rare today to carry around large amount of cash. Most people pay by a debt or credit card because it is convenient, easy, and may appear less risky than carrying cash. However, with the proliferation of the use of credit cards, the crime of credit card theft has become more and more attractive. Coupled with the large mass of personal information that can be found on the internet, and the use of credit cards electronically through various new technologies, credit card fraud and credit card forgery have also become somewhat common criminal charges.

The conduct prohibited under Virginia credit card theft, fraud, and forgery laws is fairly extensive, and may be surprising to some people. It is important for Virginia residents to understand the basics of credit card theft, fraud, and forgery laws and the penalties and consequences associated with these crimes.

Credit Card Theft

Under Code of Virginia § 18.2-192, a person is guilty of credit card or credit card number theft when he or she takes, obtains or withholds a credit card or credit card number from the owner without their permission, and he or she knows that the credit card has been taken, obtained, or withheld, and intends to sell it or transfer it. Additionally, a person is guilty of credit card theft if he or she receives a credit card or credit card number that he or she knows was lost, mislaid or delivered by mistake, and retains possession of the card or number with the intent to use it, sell it, or transfer it to a person other than the lawful owner. Two additional ways that a person can be found guilty of credit card theft are: (1) he or she buys or sells a credit card or credit card number from a person other than the issuer; or (2) within a 12 month period, he or she, not being the issuer, receives credit cards or credit card numbers issued to the names of two or more persons which he or she has reason to know were taken in violation of the law prohibiting possession by a person other than the issuer of two or more signed credit cards or credit card numbers.

Credit card theft is a grand larceny, and is punishable by between one and twenty years in a state correctional facility, or up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.

Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud is different than credit card theft. There are numerous ways in which a person can commit credit card fraud. For example, under Code of Virginia § 18.2-195 a person is guilty of credit card fraud if he or she intends to defraud any person and does the following:

  1. Uses a credit card or credit card number obtained by theft in order to pay for goods, services, or other items of value, or uses a credit card number or credit card that he or she knows is expired or revoked; or
  2. Fails to provide items, services, good, or other items of value to a credit card issuer after being authorized to do so by the issuer, with intent to defraud the issuer.

It is important to note that under credit card fraud laws, both a person failing to provide goods that have been bought with a credit card, and a person who uses a credit card that is not his or her own, can be prosecuted. There are additional subsections under these laws with specific conduct that may be prosecuted. Credit card fraud may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. Conspiracy to commit credit card fraud is also a crime under the credit card fraud statute.

Credit Card Forgery

In general, credit card forgery prohibits a person from using a credit card that did not belong to him or her to purchase money, goods, services, or any other item of value, when the person intends to defraud the issuer of the credit card. There are various provisions under Code of Virginia § 18.2-193 that specifically address the various conduct that may be considered credit card forgery.

Credit card forgery is a Class 5 felony charge, punishable by jail time, penalties, and other consequences.

Credit card theft, fraud, and forgery are serious crimes. If you have been charged with violating criminal laws in Virginia, you should immediately seek out the assistance of an experienced attorney. Contact Garrett Law Group, PLC, today for a confidential consultation.

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