With U.S. merchants losing a total of $1.9 billion per year to credit card misuse, it’s not surprising that federal law enforcement, local police and banks are very motivated to investigate credit card fraud and prosecute those who commit it.
Police often collaborate, using cutting-edge techniques to follow the path of credit card transactions made online. They can frequently trail transactions back to the computer used to make a particular purchase. If a credit card is used fraudulently in a brick-and-mortar store, police will often try to obtain a retailer’s time-stamped security camera footage that shows a suspect handing over a fake or stolen credit card to make a purchase. If you are arrested for misusing a credit card, called access device fraud under Pennsylvania law, it’s very possible the prosecutor has detailed evidence to use against you. It’s critical that you have an attorney who is experienced and aggressive to represent you.
What is Access Device Fraud?
In Pennsylvania, it is against the law to obtain or try to obtain another person’s property, money or services without their permission, by using an access device that you know is:
- Counterfeit, altered or incomplete
- Issued to another person who has not authorized its use
- Revoked or canceled
- In any way unauthorized by the issuer or device holder
An access device can be a credit card, debit card, ATM card, or a card with an account number on it. An example of access device fraud would be if you find a coworker’s credit card on their desk and use it, without getting their permission, to buy a new laptop. It is also illegal to make, sell, give away, or otherwise transfer an access device knowing it is counterfeit, altered, incomplete, revoked, canceled or belongs to another person who has not authorized its use. Offering or advertising such a device is also against Pennsylvania law. Furthermore, possessing an access device that you know is counterfeit, altered, incomplete or belongs to another person who has not authorized its possession is also illegal.
Penalties for Access Device Fraud
Under Pennsylvania law, the seriousness of the grading for access device fraud is based on the value involved:
- More than $500 — felony of the third degree
- More than $50 but less than $500 — misdemeanor of the first degree
- Less than $50 — misdemeanor of the second degree
Charged with Access Device Fraud? Contact Us Today
It is a defense to prove by a preponderance of evidence that you had the intent and ability to meet all obligations to the issuer resulting from the use of the access device. If you are being investigated for or have been charged with access device fraud, your first step should be to immediately hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. We do not advise that you speak to the police or law enforcement without your attorney present. When you meet with your lawyer, tell them everything that happened both before and during your arrest. If you have any documentation of the times you used an access device, bring it with you.