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Online shopping has become the preferred way for many Americans to buy products, which means an increase in credit card usage. As a result, more and more people are facing criminal charges for credit card fraud and theft. Under Virginia law, anyone found guilty of credit card fraud or theft could face significant jail time, fines and other consequences.

As with most crimes, the prosecutor must prove that a person had the necessary intent in order to prove that the person is guilty. If a person has been charged with credit card theft, the prosecutor must prove that the person obtained someone else's credit card or credit card number without permission and that the person intended to use it or sell it. Credit card theft may be treated as grand larceny and could get a person up to 12 months in jail. However, if a person obtained a card or card number without knowing that it was stolen, or if a person did not have the intent to use the information he or she received, then that person may have a defense to the charges brought against him or her.

Another common credit card crime involves forgery. Whether it is signing the back of another person's card or creating a fake credit card altogether, committing credit card forgery with the intent to defraud may result in criminal charges. Credit card forgery is often classified as a Class 5 felony charge and can result in jailtime.

In many cases, merely attempting to procure goods or services with a stolen card or card number may be enough to prosecute a person for credit card fraud. The prosecutor will have to establish that the person had the intent to defraud. Identity theft, or using someone's personal information to commit fraud, often falls under the umbrella of credit card fraud. The more serious the fraud, the stricter the penalty. For example, if the fraud is less than $200 in a six-month period, it can be classified as a class 1 misdemeanor.

Credit card fraud is a serious crime and should not be taken lightly. In order to avoid the stiff penalties that follow a conviction of credit card fraud, a person needs to take the steps necessary to establish a strong defense argument in his or her favor.

Source: FindLaw, "Virginia Credit and Debit Card Fraud Laws," accessed on April 30, 2018

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