When you think of credit card fraud you probably think of large rings of career criminals who have the kinds of operations it takes law enforcement months to investigate. Maybe you think of hackers, or card scanners at gas stations, or people who commit identity theft to apply for all kinds of cards.
But credit card fraud doesn’t just happen online, and career criminals aren’t the only ones who can commit it. Sometimes, regular people do it too, often without thinking about it.
#1) Misrepresenting Income
Unless you already make a lot of money, that little line on a credit card application always causes a little anxiety. Maybe you’re embarrassed about the amount of money you make. Maybe you really want the card, and you don’t think your own income will cut it.
So you add a few thousand dollars to the total income you make, and send it off.
If you pay your credit card faithfully until it closes this may never come back to bite you. But if you file bankruptcy, it will. Creditors keep those applications on file, and they audit them when you file.
If the lie is discovered, you could face jail time. And that debt could be ineligible for discharge.
#2) Using a Borrowed Card Without Permission
It’s not a crime to borrow a card with permission, or to lend one. It is a crime to use that card to make a purchase the card owner didn’t authorize.
And sometimes, authorization for certain goods or services can devolve into a “he said, she said” type of situation. If the courts have to believe one person over the other, they’re usually going to default to the cardholder.
What’s worse is if you borrowed the card you probably signed for the purchase, too. Now you’ve fraudulently forged someone else’s signature.
If you want to make a purchase with a borrowed card, ask your friend or loved one to do it for you, directly. Don’t just run to the store with borrowed plastic in hand.
#3) Authorized User Fraud
Most credit cards allow people to add a name to their card as an authorized user. This allows them to hand you the card so you can go buy things on it without worrying about the “borrowed card” problem.
But you must report it when the cardholder dies, and you must close out the account. An authorized user is not the same thing as a card holder.
Sure, the bank will happily keep accepting your payments if you keep making them. But if you ever can’t make them, this one is going to catch up with you…and bite you.
#4) Fraudulent Disputes
Disputes are a good tool for removing unauthorized, duplicate, or mistaken charges from your credit card account. But if you misuse them you could be committing credit card fraud.
For example, it’s against the law to use the dispute process just because you don’t like the quality of a product or service you received.
Most people only dispute the charge when they don’t recall doing business with a particular merchant. But the name on the credit card statement isn’t always the name of the DBA of the company you bought from. It’s a good idea to keep receipts so you can compare them against your statement and match up transactions you don’t recognize, before you invoke the dispute process.
#5) Free Trial Fraud
If you’re a habitual Internet user you probably sign up for free trials all the time. And it’s fine…as long as you use a real credit card number.
Yes, navigating the cancellation process is usually pretty annoying. And yes, it’s possible you’ll forget when the free trial ends and get charged for something you didn’t want to be charged for.
But providing a fake credit card isn’t the answer. It’s basically theft-of-product or theft-of-service…the trial was free on the condition that you gave the company your credit card number to put on file.
Often, these actions are innocent.
They’re done thoughtlessly, in good faith, or in the belief that there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing.
But if you get caught for any of them, you could end up facing criminal charges.
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