Understanding Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud is a serious crime that can come with a felony prison sentence, depending on what state the crime happened in. Credit card fraud can mean physically stealing somebody’s credit or debit card and using it to make purchases, or using deception or technology to gain sensitive information. A number of law enforcement agencies have units designed to investigate credit card fraud, including the FBI and Secret Service. Understanding credit card fraud practices will help protect you financially.

Stealing Credit Cards

Nowadays, it is difficult for people to physically steal credit cards and make purchases with them. Shop owners are encouraged to request the customer’s identification when he or she pays with a credit card. Moreover, some banks and credit card companies have started adding photographs of the cardholder’s face on the front of the card. While these security measures do not protect against online purchases with a stolen credit card, technology has advanced to the point where police can locate the computer where the purchases were made from.

Skimming and Cloning

The more common way people fall victim to credit card fraud is through skimming, phishing, and cloned cards. Skimming and cloning operate in similar ways; when your card is skimmed or cloned, it is swiped through a machine that saves your credit card or banking details. This machine usually looks like a normal card reader and can often be difficult to discern the difference. Skimmers work by extracting your card’s information through the magnetic strip on the back, where the data is unencrypted and unsecured. This information is then sent to a computer hacker who can use it to make illegal credit card purchases. Some criminals have become high-tech and are able to clone your credit card by making a dummy card with your skimmed information placed on it.


Another common way that credit card fraud occurs is through phishing. In this tactic, the thief does not actually steal information, but rather uses deception to have the victims send the thief their credit card details. This is usually done through phony emails, phone calls pretending to be a bank employee, or websites designed to look like the victim’s bank page. If anyone claiming to be a bank or credit card employee calls or sends an email asking for passwords, account numbers, and social security numbers, that person is likely phishing.

While there are many different ways to commit credit card fraud, they generally have the same penalty. It does not matter whether someone physically stole the card, or used deception to obtain sensitive information, both acts are considered stealing. Usually, the amount of money stolen distinguishes felony and misdemeanor charges with credit card fraud. However, there are some states where illegally accessing somebody’s credit or bank card is an automatically felony. In some states, credit card fraud and identity theft can come with hefty fines and a 15-year prison sentence.

Protect Yourself While Traveling

Where credit card fraud and identity theft are the most common.

Credit card fraud can happen anywhere. The best way to protect yourself from becoming a victim is to be cautious when using your credit card, and never let it leave your site. With that said, there are a number of places where it occurs more frequently. The top ten states, including DC, for credit card fraud are:

1. Florida

2. Washington D.C.

3. California

4. Nevada

5. New York

6. Washington

7. Maryland

8. Georgia

9. New Jersey

10. Connecticut

If you fear that you have become a victim of credit card fraud, you should immediately contact your bank and credit card lenders and have your cards cancelled. Most banks have a 24-hour hotline dedicated to lost and stolen cards, and will be glad to help you protect your assets. If you have recently been charged with identity theft or credit card fraud, contact a criminal attorney immediately. Whether you are guilty, or you have been wrongly charged, an attorney will help you navigate the legal system.