Credit Card FAQ
How Long Do You Go To Jail For Credit Card Fraud?
Credit card fraud is a Federal offense that is prosecuted differently in each state. While the punishments may vary, though, you can be sure that if you are convicted of credit card fraud, you are likely to face some jail time.
Fraud, in general, costs consumers in the United States millions of dollars every year in the form of increased and additional fees for all kinds of consumer services. This includes:
- Various insurance policies
- Credit card fees
Because it deals with Federal money, credit card fraud is a Federal offense, but each state is responsible for developing its own sentencing rules. No matter what, though, you can be sure that a conviction for credit card fraud will result in a jail sentence.
Defining Credit Card Fraud
While you may have heard the term used often, and you've probably use it yourself, for the sake of understanding the law it is important to make sure that you understand the definition of credit card fraud. Credit card fraud is the unlawful and unauthorized use of a credit account that belongs to another person. This includes:
- Stealing and using a physical credit card
- Counterfeiting credit cards
- Illegally obtaining credit cards through the mail
- Using an ill-obtained credit card number at an online point of sale
The most common type of actual credit card fraud occurs at restaurants and stores where it is easy to pay for things quickly without having to interact with the person swiping the card. Of course, virtual fraud is also on the rise because not all websites are secure and not all ask for various forms of identification to confirm a legitimate purchase.
Misdemeanor Vs. Felony
Unfortunately, part of the legal system is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony. Less harmful crimes are classified as misdemeanors with the more serious ones falling into the felony category. In terms of credit card fraud, if a state deems that there is a misdemeanor classification, someone convicted of misdemeanor fraud could serve:
- Up to 90 days in prison
- Face probation with more sever punishments for non-compliance
In terms of felonies, credit card fraud could fall under a Class B or Class C felony. A Class B felony conviction could result in:
- Up to 20 years in prison
Obviously, a Class C felony carries steeper punishments. A person who repeats a Class B felony might receive a Class C status even for the purposes of sentencing, even if the crime is a Class B felony.
The Bottom Line
On average, if you are convicted of credit card fraud, you are probably going to face:
- 3-6 years in prison for a first offense or a plea agreement OR
- 7-15 years in prison for a more serious offense
- Up to 20 years in some states
Basically, if you are convicted of credit card fraud, you will go to jail for at least a couple of years. Depending on the state, and your lawyer, you may be able to reduce that time under a variety of arrangements.
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