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Credit card fraud: Real charges and heavy penalties by law

Using, buying or selling forged or stolen credit cards is known as credit card fraud. If you participate in this kind of fraud, you could face serious consequences.

Any time you use a credit card without authorization, you can be accused of fraud. Sometimes, those accusations are unfounded. For example, if you go to the grocery store and take your spouse's card to pay for food, the cashier might notice the different name and signature and call someone to claim you're acting fraudulently. Usually, a simple call to verify that you had permission to use the card is enough to clear up the situation. If, for some reason, the person who authorized the card's use says that he or she did not, then you could find yourself getting arrested.

Credit card fraud is a first-degree misdemeanor if there are two offenses within six months or if the offense took place with the purchase of an item under $100. In the case that there were three or more acts of fraud or a purchase was over $100, the charges are raised to a third-degree felony.

The difference in what those charges mean to you is staggering. A first-degree misdemeanor only has a penalty of up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted compared to a third-degree felony that is penalized with up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

Fortunately, there are good defenses to these charges. If you can show you didn't intend to commit fraud or that you had authorization to use the credit card, your case may be dismissed. Your attorney can help you provide evidence to the courts to support your innocence.

Source: FindLaw, "Florida Credit Card Fraud Laws," accessed April 25, 2017

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