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When is the use of a credit card a criminal act in Virginia?

People make purchases using a credit card all the time in Virginia, to the point that many people do not even carry cash on them anymore, preferring to buy things with the swipe of a card. However, the use of a credit card becomes a criminal offense in certain situations.

One way the use of a credit card can be illegal is if the credit card is stolen. Credit card theft takes place when two elements are present. One element is that the accused must have taken another person’s credit card or credit card number without that person’s consent. The second element is that the accused’s intention was to use the stolen credit card or sell it (even if they actually never used it or sold it.) The purchase or sale of someone else’s credit card number or credit card without consent also constitutes credit card theft.

Another way the use of a credit card can be illegal is if it is used fraudulently. Credit card theft and credit card fraud are two different animals. For a person to be convicted of credit card fraud, the accused must have actually attempted to obtain or actually obtained some sort of product or service using another’s credit card, rather than simply possessing a stolen card. If a person intention is to defraud and he or she makes an attempt to buy or actually buys something either by using a credit card that has been revoked or expired, by falsely stating they are the cardholder or by using a false card to purchase something, this may also be considered credit card fraud.

Finally, credit card forgery is also illegal in Virginia. Credit card forgery takes place when the accused’s intention is to defraud and he or she either creates a fake card, puts his or her signature on the back of another person’s card, makes an alternation to a card that is otherwise valid, or if he or she forges a draft.

Credit card theft and other crimes involving credit cards are very serious. Being convicted of a credit card crime could result in jail time and other undesirable consequences. It is important to recognize when it is lawful to use a credit card and when it is unlawful. This way, a person accused of a credit card crime can mount a strong criminal defense strategy.

Source: FindLaw, “Virginia Credit and Debit Card Fraud Laws,” accessed Jan. 27, 2018

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