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Crimes Against Property

Credit Card Theft

In March 2004 the Montgomery, Alabama, police department arrested and charged an eighteen-year-old girl with credit card abuse (theft). The credit card was mistakenly left by a Montgomery woman at a gasoline station on December 21, 2003. She reported the loss to police.

The eighteen-year-old found the card and showed it to her boyfriend. The pair, along with a few other teens, charged more than $1,000 worth of purchases both in Montgomery and Houston, Texas, over the next several weeks.

Following the credit card trail, police pinpointed exact stores where the unlawful purchases were made. At least nine videotapes from the stores where the teens made purchases were obtained. The eighteen-year-old faced not only a charge of credit card theft (a misdemeanor or minor offense), but also a felony charge (major offense) of engaging in organized criminal activity. The felony charge stemmed from the use of the card by a number of individuals known to the teen.

If reported within a reasonable time period, credit card companies such as Visa and MasterCard as well as debit card issuers limit a victim's loss to $50. Losses to credit or debit card companies from credit card theft have been growing every year. In general, credit card thieves are amateurs but even amateurs can cause huge losses—especially if they use the Internet to steal card numbers. Stolen card numbers are usually used for two or three days then abandoned. Police agencies stress that victims must file a police report since most financial agencies, card companies, and credit reporting agencies require a police report to take action.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawCrimes Against Property - Burglary, Neighborhood Watch, Larceny-theft, Credit Card Theft, Motor Vehicle Theft, Arson