Have you ever wondered if credit card fraud is a felony or a federal crime? Many victims of identity theft or credit fraud wonder if the person impersonating them committed a felony or federal crime.
Depending on the nature of the crime, the location, and other circumstances, credit card theft can be a federal crime and a felony. However, people possessing a stolen credit card can also receive state-level felony charges.
Learn more about the consequences of credit card fraud in this guide with examples of punishments and more.
Is Credit Card Fraud a Felony?
In most cases, whether you are charged by the state where you committed the crime or the federal government, credit card fraud is a felony. The consequences of all types of fraud can be significant. However, in addition to receiving charges for credit card fraud, many people who commit these crimes receive other related and often more severe charges.
What Charges are Associated with Credit Card Fraud?
The charges you could face for committing a credit card crime depend on the severity of the crime. Typically, the charges for having a stolen credit card or stealing the numbers off a credit card are less serious than similar identity theft crimes when someone steals someone’s information and applies for credit.
However, each state has different credit card fraud statutes. For example, in Texas, someone who steals a credit card may receive a one to five-year prison sentence, while someone who receives an identity theft conviction may face 20 years or more in prison.
Furthermore, you can receive a state-jail felony charge or a federal credit card fraud charge, depending on the government agency that prosecutes you.
If you are found crossing state lines, sending credit cards through the mail, using an electronic device to steal credit card information, or are a member of a larger criminal organization, you may face federal charges, longer prison sentences, and higher court costs, restitution, and fines.
What are the Punishments for Credit Card Fraud?
Punishments for credit fraud charges are more severe than citations for shoplifting or other petty crimes. There are numerous punishments that can result from a credit card charge, including:
- Restitution – A court-ordered repayment of damages caused to victims of your crime.
- Fines – Fees paid to the court during your trial and after sentencing.
- Pre-Trial Supervision – A period while you are awaiting trial when you have to check in regularly and abide by pre-trial guidelines set forth by the court.
- Prison Time – Credit card theft charges can result in lengthy prison terms.
- Probation – In some cases, low-level and first-time offenders are given probation instead of jail time.
- Attorney Fees – While hiring a lawyer is not technically a punishment for committing fraud, it is a costly consequence you must deal with when receiving these charges.
- Other Restrictions – In some cases, the judge may ban you from using any credit cards, even your personal cards, while you are fighting your case or after you receive your sentence.
What Should You Do If You are Charged with Credit Card Fraud?
It is always best to avoid circumstances that could result in you receiving a credit card fraud charge. However, if you are accused of stealing a credit card, you must hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.
A conviction for theft of a credit or debit card is not only a felony in most cases, but it is also a crime of moral turpitude. So, even if you are not convicted of a felony, employers are typically less likely to hire candidates with theft and fraud charges than people convicted of other crimes.
In some cases, a qualified attorney can negotiate a reduction in your charges or work out a deal with the prosecutor for probation instead of a lengthy prison sentence. So, while hiring a defense attorney can be costly, it can significantly improve the outcome of your case and the rest of your life.
Final Thoughts on is Credit Card Fraud a Felony or Federal Crime
When it comes to answering, is credit card fraud a felony or a federal crime, it depends. However, you can receive state and federal-level charges for using a stolen credit card.
With a felony conviction, it is challenging to find housing and employment. You may also lose your right to apply for some government assistance.
If you ever find yourself charged with this crime, hiring a lawyer is important to minimize the impact the charge has on the rest of your life. However, the best decision is not to commit credit card fraud in the first place.
For help with other legal and personal finance topics, like what to do if your parents falsely claimed you on their taxes, read the other informative guides on our site.