Could I Face Federal Charges for Using Someone Else’s Credit Card?

Posted on in Fraud

chicago fraud defense lawyerIn today’s digitally connected world, we tend to use credit and debit cards to pay for just about everything. Most of us do not think twice before pulling out a card to pay for nearly any size purchase or typing in our card info to buy something online. But what could happen if you use someone else’s card to make a purchase or pay a bill? The answer depends on many different variables, but you could potentially face federal charges for credit card fraud.

A Changing World

When customer-facing credit card processing pads were first installed at retail establishments, cashiers were generally trained to verify that the person swiping the card was, in fact, authorized to do so. In practice, this process was little more than a cursory glance to compare the customer’s signature to the signature on the back of the card, but some cashiers would ask for identification from the customer. Some customers might not have been thrilled with the minor delay, but the purpose of the verification was to prevent fraud.

Today, however, cashiers rarely check signatures, and with the rise of PIN-protected debit transactions, retailers are largely staying away from determining whether or not a customer is authorized to use a particular card. Online retailers, by comparison, might ask for a billing address or other identifying details, but they still have no way to know who is actually making the purchase in most cases.

Authorized vs. Unauthorized Card Use

The changing practices of both brick-and-mortar and online retailers are relevant because the most important variable related to the possibility of being prosecuted for credit card fraud is whether you were authorized to use a card belonging to someone else.

In most cases, verbal authorization is sufficient to make your use of the card legal. For example, if your friend hands you his card and asks you to buy something for him at the store, he has effectively authorized your use of the card. This also applies if your friend provides his card information for you to make an online purchase on his behalf.

If you use someone else’s card without permission, however, your behavior constitutes unauthorized use. This includes taking a physical card without permission or saving the card information to an online retail account, and knowingly making future purchases without your friend’s approval.

State and Federal Charges

Most charges of credit card fraud are handled at the state level, especially those related to using someone else’s card at a brick-and-mortar retail store. In Illinois, credit card fraud can be charged as up to a Class 3 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

If you are accused of the unauthorized use of a credit card online, however, federal charges are possible. Federal credit card fraud charges are extremely serious and could lead to a sentence of up to ten years in federal prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Call a Chicago Credit Card Fraud Defense Lawyer

If you are facing charges related to the unauthorized of a credit card, an experienced Chicago white-collar criminal defense attorney can help you protect yourself and your rights. Call 312-629-0669 for a free consultation at Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney today. We will do everything we can to assist you in obtaining the best possible outcome for your situation.



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