Identity theft is rising as society moves to cashless transactions and relies more heavily on credit and debit cards. In response, the state instituted several code sections governing the illegal use of financial transaction cards. Convictions for fraud crimes implicate both imprisonment and fines. If you find yourself accused of these offenses, consult with a reputable DeKalb County credit card fraud lawyer to understand what you are up against and devise a plan to combat the charges.
The state separates illegal financial transaction card activity into three categories: theft, forgery, and fraud. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated describes each offense and identifies suitable punishments.
As explained in O.C.G.A. § 16-9-31, credit card theft occurs when a person takes or possesses a financial transaction card without the owner’s consent and intends to use it for their benefit. Those purposes can be to purchase goods and services for themselves or to sell the information to another party. The individual may obtain the card by stealing, finding (i.e., discovering a lost card), or buying it. The person holding the card does not need to have the original card to face charges; forged cards satisfy theft requirements.
O.C.G.A. § 16-9-32 outlines the behaviors that constitute criminal forgery. Credit card forgery may include creating a fake credit or debit card, signing a card not issued to that person, or falsely embossing, encoding, or altering an issued card (e.g. changing the information contained in the magnetic strip). Along with undertaking these actions, the defendant must plan on using the card to obtain goods and services from providers under false pretenses or defraud the company issuing the card.
When an individual misuses financial transactional cards with the intent of tricking card issuers and goods sellers, they may commit credit card fraud. O.C.G.A. § 16-9-33 outlines such illegal activities as including:
Although the law recognizes three distinct crimes, these offenses overlap in many respects, so authorities often charge defendants with multiple violations. Defendants may find responding to these charges presents numerous challenges. Working with a knowledgeable credit card fraud attorney in DeKalb County may allow those accused to devise an effective defense strategy and avoid the harshest penalties.
Most individuals convicted of illegally using credit cards – theft, forgery, or fraud – receive sentences established in O.C.G.A. § 16-9-38(b). This section exposes offenders to no more than three years in prison, fines of $5,000, or both. However, O.C.G.A. §§ 16-9-33(c) and 16-9-38(a) distinguish fraud cases where the value of the taken items equals less than $100 in a six-month timeframe. In these instances, the punishment may not exceed a $1000 fine, one to two years imprisonment, or both. Because the consequences of credit card fraud can be harsh, DeKalb County residents accused of this offense should consider seeking help from a reputable lawyer.
Charges of illegal financial transaction card usage threaten your freedom and financial well-being. To protect your rights and future, you may need the assistance of a Dekalb County credit card fraud lawyer who understands this area of the law. Reach out today.