With the increased convenience of online shopping and financial transactions, there has been a sharp increase in cases of credit card fraud in Virginia. It is a serious crime that can have adverse effects on your relationships with your family, colleagues, employer, and friends. If you are arrested for credit card fraud in Fairfax, VA or the larger Northern Virginia area, you will need to contact a seasoned lawyer to represent you during the investigation and keep you from giving a statement that could possibly damage your defense. At Virginia Criminal Attorney, we will vigorously fight any charges against you to avoid hefty fines, imprisonment or a permanent criminal record. Even if you presume you are guilty, our attorneys will help you put up a convincing defense to have your charges reduced or dismissed entirely.

Virginia Laws on Credit Card Fraud

Section 18.2-195 of the Virginia Code is the state’s statute on credit card fraud. The code defines credit card fraud as using a credit card knowingly to gain some value and with the intention to defraud. Under the code, conspiracy to commit credit card fraud is also a crime. The same statute includes the possible penalties for violating the code.

To be charged with any type of credit card fraud, you must have actually and fraudulently acquired services, goods, money or something of value. If these aspects aren’t proved, you will be charged with attempted credit card fraud. Section 18.2-195 of the Virginia Code outlines the different ways in which you can commit credit card fraud.

Under Section 18.2-195(1)(A): It is unlawful for you to knowingly use a stolen credit card or card number to gain something that has a monetary value with an aim to deceive. The elements of this offense include:

  • Using a credit card

  • The card you used must have been stolen or lost

  • You must have used the credit card to obtain goods, services or something else of value

  • You must have acted with a purpose to defraud

Under Section 18.2-195(1)(A): You are prohibited from deliberately using a revoked or expired credit card or number to acquire some value. To be convicted of credit card fraud under this statute, your action must have the following elements:

  • Use of a credit card

  • Having knowledge that the card was either revoked or expired

  • Obtaining goods, services, money or anything else of value

  • Having an intention to defraud

Under Section 18.2-195(1)(b)(i): You are guilty of credit card fraud if you fraudulently use somebody else’s credit card or number to receive something of value by passing the credit card off as your own. You will be liable for this offense if you:

  • Use a credit card belonging to another party

  • Without authorization

  • To secure something useful

  • With an intention to defraud

  • And you actually receive something important as a result

Under Section 18.2-195(1)(d): It is illegal to knowingly obtain money above the allowed credit limit with an objective to defraud. This can happen if you:

  • Plan to cheat and knowingly obtain money above your credit limit from an unmanned card reader

  • Knowingly obtain money above your credit card limit from someone who is not the issuer

Under Section 18.2-195(1)(C): You will be prosecuted for credit card fraud if you intend to swindle by taking someone’s credit card as collateral for a debt.

Under Section 18.2-195(1)(b)(ii): It is an offense to use an un-issued credit card or credit card number to gain something that has value.

Under Section 18.2-195(2)(b): As a merchant, you will have committed credit card fraud if you provide anything of value against a revoked, expired or stolen credit card and with an intention to cheat. Your intention to defraud will be established by proving that you were aware the card was lost, stolen, revoked or expired.

Under Section 18.2-195.1: Your actions will constitute credit card factoring if you:

  • Request payment using a fake credit card transaction record with the intention to deceive.

  • Cause a merchant or their employee to remit a fake record of credit card transactions with an intention to dupe.

Under Section 18.2-195(2)(b): You will have committed credit card fraud if you fail to provide goods, services, money or any other item of value after charging a credit card.

Under Section 18.2-195(2)(C): You are liable for credit card fraud if you charge the issuer an amount greater than the amount authorized by the cardholder.

Under Section 18.2-195(4): You will be charged with conspiracy to commit credit card fraud if you conspire to perpetrate credit card fraud within Virginia or conspire in Virginia to execute credit card fraud within or outside of Virginia.

Penalties for Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud is prosecuted under both civil and criminal laws. While only government prosecutors are authorized to bring criminal charges against you, your victim can institute a civil action. It is possible to face criminal prosecution and a civil lawsuit for the same action. The law permits prosecutors to forcefully pursue credit card fraud cases to curb their increasing rate.

Your case of credit card fraud will be charged under Virginia code 18.2-195 as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If you obtained a value of less than $200 within six months, you would be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties are;

  • Up to 12 months in jail

  • A fine of up to $2,500

You would be charged with a class 6 felony if you obtained a value higher than $200 within six months. The consequences include:

  • Imprisonment for between 1- 5 years

  • A maximum fine of $2,500

At the jury’s discretion or if the court has no jury, the penalties for a class 6 felony include:

  • Jail time not exceeding 12 months

  • A fine not exceeding $2,500

  • Both

If you conspire to commit credit card fraud, regardless of the amount or time, you will be charged with a class 6 felony punishable by

  • imprisonment for up to 5 years

  • a fine of $2,500

Credit card factoring with an intention to defraud is a class 5 felony. The penalty is:

  • Incarceration for between 1 – 10 years

At the discretion of the jury or court the punishment may be:

  • Up to 12 months in jail

  • A maximum fine of $2,500

  • Both

Every occurrence of credit card fraud is considered a separate crime, also known as a count. Each offense is punished independently and in full. If you use a single card to make two separate fraudulent transactions worth more than $200 each, you will be charged with two separate counts of felony credit card fraud. The penalties include:

  • A 10-year prison term

  • Paying restitution including fees to clean up your victim’s credit record

  • Paying damages to the financial institutions or insurance carriers you swindled.

What the Prosecutor Must Prove

For the prosecutor to sustain credit card fraud charges against you, there must be compelling proof that:

  • You illegally took either a credit card or a credit card number from someone else

  • You unlawfully took the card or card number with an intent to use, sell or transfer the card to another person who is not the issuer or cardholder

  • You used the credit card or the credit card number in order to purchase an item of value

  • You had the intention to defraud. The intention can be drawn from your behavior. For example, if you falsify your name or address, that can be interpreted as a deliberate plan to defraud

Common Defenses to Fight Credit Card Fraud Charges

Although every case is unique, the most common defense is fundamentally hitched on the element of intent. To win the case, prosecutors must provide indisputable evidence that you deliberately planned to commit fraud. If no such evidence is available, your lawyer can argue a lack of intent and have your case dismissed.

In addition to proving lack of intent, your lawyer may raise several other issues in your defense such as:

  • You had permission from the cardholder: Often, fraud charges occur when the card owner had permitted you to use the card, but you fell out later.

  • You were not aware of the status of the card: Putting the element of intent into consideration, your attorney can argue that you could not have in any way known that you were in possession of a credit card that had been revoked, stolen or not authorized to be used.

  • Yours is a case of mistaken identity: Eyewitnesses or the police identified you accidentally as they searched for somebody else.

  • Inaccurate or manipulated electronic data: Many cases of credit card fraud involving internet and computer records. However, such electronic data is often inaccurate due to malware, viruses, software problems and malicious actions of other people. Your lawyer must hire experts to investigate any such evidence if it is presented in court.

  • Your rights were violated by law enforcement: If police officers searched you or your property improperly, that is a possible violation of your constitutional rights. Evidence that the police obtain through an illegitimate search is not valid in court.

Crimes Related to Credit Card Fraud

Credit Card Forgery

Under Virginia Code 18.2-193, you are guilty of credit card forgery if you intend to defraud and execute any of these acts:

  • Make a counterfeit credit card

  • Sign the back of another person’s credit card

  • Alter a credit card that is otherwise valid

  • Create false or forged advance, withdrawal or sales drafts

To be convicted of credit card forgery, the prosecutor must prove that:

  • You used the credit card to buy something with a monetary value from a trader

  • You are neither the cardholder nor a person authorized to use the credit card by the cardholder

  • You planned to deceive the issuer

Credit card forgery is a class 5 felony, and the consequences are:

  • A prison term of between 1 – 10 years

  • Jail time for up to 12 months and a fine not exceeding $2,500

  • A fine of $2,500

Credit Card Theft

Under Virginia Code 18.2-192, you will have committed credit card theft if you:

  • Take another person’s credit card or the number without their consent

  • Have an intention to sell or use it

  • Buy or sell credit cards or credit card numbers without approval

To successfully convict you of credit card theft, there must be persuasive proof that:

  • You wrongfully took another person’s credit card number or credit card itself

  • You took the card without the card holder's consent

  • You took with an intention to sell or use it

  • You received the credit card with the realization that the card was wrongfully taken from the owner

  • You received a stolen card with an intention to sell, use or transfer it

Possessing a stolen credit card does not constitute a crime. However, possession of either multiple credit card numbers or credit cards without consent from the owner(s) may serve as prima facie evidence of credit card theft. Prima facie evidence is evidence that is considered accurate until proven otherwise. Credit card theft is considered an act of grand larceny. If found guilty, you will be subject to:

  • Between 1 – 20 years in prison

  • Jail time of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500

  • A fine not exceeding $2,500

Illegal Possession of Credit Card Forgery Devices

Under Virginia code 18.2-196, you are guilty if you:

  • Are not the authorized cardholder, and you possess at least two incomplete credit cards with an intention to finalize them without permission from the issuer

  • Possess, with an awareness of its character, plates, machinery or any other device created to replicate instruments that appear to be credit cards from an issuer which has not authorized the production of such cards

A credit card is incomplete if part of the printed or written material, has not been imprinted, embossed, written upon or stamped. This material is what must appear on the credit card before it is used excluding the cardholder’s signature.

Illegal possession of credit card forgery devices is a class 6 felony. The penalty is imprisonment for between 1 – 5 years. If the court tries you without a jury, or a jury is present, and they act at their discretion, you may receive:

  • A jail term not exceeding 12 months

  • A fine not exceeding $2,500

  • Both

Unlawful use of a Credit Card Scanner or Re-encoder

Under section 18.2-196.1 of the Virginia Code, it is illegal to scan someone else’s credit card without their consent or maliciously. It is also unlawful to double scan somebody’s credit card when they are transacting.

If you only recode or scan the credit card, your offense is a class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties are:

  • A maximum of 12 months in jail

  • A fine not greater than $2,500

If you distribute the stolen data to a third party, the crime upgrades to a class 6 felony. The same happens if you use the data to commit other credit card crimes. The consequences are:

  • Not more than 5 years in prison

  • Fines of not more than $2,500

Receiving Goods or Services Obtained Through Credit Card Fraud

If you receive goods or services which you know or believe were paid for through credit card fraud, you are guilty of a crime under Virginia Code 18.2-197. Actions that constitute this crime include:

  • Collecting gifts from a friend who you are aware has been purchasing items using a stolen card

  • Buying new but unreasonably cheap things from somebody whom you recognize to be using stolen credit cards

  • Dubious work-from-home ventures where you receive goods bought using stolen credit cards then you distribute the goods to other people

  • Being in possession of items you procured in another jurisdiction using a stolen credit card

Although the goods or services in question may seem illegitimate due to their unreasonably low price tag, it does not prove that they were acquired through credit card fraud. The prosecutor has to prove that you were aware the goods were secured specifically by credit card fraud.

The punishment is based on the value of the merchandise or services received within 6 months.

For goods or services worth less than $200, the offense is a class 1 misdemeanor. The penalties are:

  • Up to 12 months in jail.

  • A $2,500 fine.

For goods or services with a value exceeding $200, the misdeed is a class 6 felony with a punishment of:

  • A 5-year prison term.

  • A fine of $2,500.

Fraudulent Request for a Credit Card

If you knowingly falsify information while applying for a credit card, you will be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor for violating section 18.2-195.2 of the Virginia Code. The penalties are:

  • A maximum jail term of 12 months

  • A maximum fine of $2,500

If the distorted statement was in response to an unsolicited offer from a credit card issuer, the offense is a class 4 misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding $250.

You are also required by section 18.2-195.2(B) to pay the full value of anything received using a card acquired through a fraudulent application. If the goods or services are worth less than $200, the offense is considered as petty larceny, a class 1 misdemeanor. If the goods or services are valued above $200, the rime is categorized under grand larceny which attracts a maximum prison term of 20 years.

Contact a Fraud Attorney Near Me

Are you or a loved one facing charges of credit card fraud in or around Fairfax and Northern Virginia? Our legal representatives at Virginia Criminal Attorney have an in-depth understanding of how prosecutors will handle your criminal proceedings. We will take charge of your case, build a strong defense, and secure the best possible outcome. Contact our Fairfax criminal lawyer at 703-718-5533, and we will use our expertise to handle the complexities involved in such cases.