Virginia takes credit card theft and credit card fraud very seriously, and the state considers both crimes felonies. While the pressures of holiday shopping are in full swing, criminal defense attorney Rebecca Wade explains the real cost of credit card theft.

“If you steal a credit card, that’s a felony for credit card theft. If you then use the credit card, that’s considered credit card fraud so you end up having two charges against you, practically once,” says Wade.

Additionally, you can be charged with credit card theft for stealing a credit card number, even if you don’t take the physical card. “Let’s say you have somebody who’s doing a skimming scheme at a restaurant. They could skim 10 cards in a day, that’s potentially 10 charges of credit card theft, even though they’re not walking out the door with the physical card.”  

“Then, once they use the card that’s credit card fraud,” explains Wade, “That’s it’s own charge, so charges can rack up against a defendant very, very quickly. If someone steals 10 credit card numbers and uses each one even one time, they’re looking at potentially 20 felony charges. You can end up looking at a significant amount of time for that behavior.”

With charges stacking up, credit card theft and credit card fraud can result in a significant amount of time in jail. And if a defendant is facing multiple charges that carry the possibility of significant jail time, prosecutors can leverage those charges and even inflate them in order to get a plea from the defendant. Wade says, “If there’s a realistic possibility that you might be convicted, then it’s likely that you’re going to plead to a misdemeanor, forgo the trial, and the prosecutor can mark that off as a conviction and a closed case.”