“Credit card fraud.”
When most people hear those three little words, it sends an uncomfortable prickle down their backs. After all, no one wants to think about the possibility of someone getting ahold of their card and racking up expenses.
Lawmakers and those in law enforcement understand this. They also know how widespread and prevalent credit card fraud is. Because of these two things, they tend to come down hard on people who are suspected of this type of act.
If you find yourself charged, you can expect to face high level charges and severe consequences. In short, it’s a big, big deal. Unfortunately, this is one of those “umbrella” crimes that applies to a variety of alleged actions – some that many people don’t even realize beforehand.
Typically, credit card fraud consists of illegally using another individual’s personal information to make purchases or open credit accounts. However, other acts that qualify include gift card skimming, recording unsold gift card numbers and using them to make online purchases once they are purchased and activated, and using a company-owned credit card to make personal purchases.
Want some good news? Credit card fraud is often very difficult to prove.
In order to convict you of credit card fraud, the prosecution must prove the following:
- You knowingly used one or more credit or debit card belonging to another party;
- With this use, you intended to defraud – meaning that you intended to bring benefit to yourself through deception;
- You obtained something of value using the credit or debit card.
If you are facing credit card fraud charges, a number of defenses may be able to help your case. The appropriate defense for your case will depend on the circumstances of the alleged offense. That’s why it’s so important to work with a knowledgeable Colorado criminal defense attorney who will be able to evaluate which defenses are most applicable for your case.
Below, we’re going to break down the law and the types of acts that count as credit card fraud in our state, then go over common strategies that an experienced lawyer may decide to use in your defense.
How Colorado Law Defines Credit Card Fraud
In our state, credit card fraud falls under the criminal acts of identity theft and criminal possession of a financial device. Depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense, one or both charges could be applicable.
Criminal Possession of a Financial Device
This is defined as possession of any financial device (in this case a credit or debit card) that the defendant knows, or should reasonably know, is lost, stolen, or delivered under mistake as to the account holder’s identity.
In Colorado, criminal possession of one financial device is a class 1 misdemeanor. Possession of two or more is a Class 6 felony, and possession of four or more (of which at least two are issued to separate account holders), is a Class 5 felony. These offenses are punishable by anywhere from six months to three years in prison, and fines of $500-$100,000, depending on the specific charges and circumstances.
Identity theft is defined as possessing or using the personal or financial identifying information or financial device of another without permission or lawful authority with the intent of obtaining anything of value, or to use this information to fraudulently apply for a line of credit.
In Colorado, identity theft is a class 4 felony, and is punishable by up to 12 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
Credit Card Fraud Defenses That Work in Colorado
Depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense, there may be a number of defense strategies that can be used to help your case. Below are some of the most common credit card fraud defenses.
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed credit card fraud. If there is insufficient evidence to do so, the prosecution cannot convict you, even if there is reason to suspect that you may have committed credit card fraud.
Absence of Intent to Commit a Crime
In order to commit credit card fraud, you must be acting with the intent to deceive. For example, accidentally using the credit card of another would not constitute credit card fraud. In some cases it may be possible to argue that you acted in good faith and without the intent to defraud.
Entrapment occurs when law enforcement compels an innocent person to commit a crime they would not otherwise have committed. However, simply providing an opportunity to commit a crime does not constitute entrapment. Your attorney will be able to determine whether the specifics of your case constitute entrapment.
In some cases, you may reasonably believe that you had the cardholder’s authorization to use the card. Examples of this would include use of a family member’s credit card, or if you used your employer’s corporate card. If you legitimately believe that you were permitted to use the card, this could be a part of your defense strategy.
Any of these strategies may apply in your case – but they also might not. Your best defense could end up being something else entirely. That is why it is so important to work with someone you trust and believe in, and who possesses a track record of success in these types of cases.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.