New York Credit Card Fraud: What You Need to Know
Credit card fraud is a serious issue affecting New Yorkers. This type of fraud involves the unauthorized use of someone’s credit card information for fraudulent purchases. Recent cases highlight how prevalent credit card fraud schemes have become in New York.
How Credit Card Fraud Happens
There are a few common ways that criminals can steal credit card information:
- Skimming devices – Fraudsters attach a skimming device onto ATMs, gas pumps, and other card readers to steal card information when you swipe your card. The skimmer copies your card number, expiration date, and security code.
- Hacking retailers – Large data breaches have exposed millions of credit card numbers that criminals then sell on the dark web or use themselves. Some of the biggest breaches have hit retailers like Target, Home Depot, and Macy’s.
- Mail theft – Criminals steal mail containing new credit cards or account statements with card numbers printed on them. Mail theft by postal employees is an ongoing problem in New York.
- Fake cards – Scammers create counterfeit credit cards using stolen card data and their own fake names. They use the cards to make in-store purchases until the fraud is detected.
- Account takeovers – Fraudsters get access to someone’s credit card account by stealing login credentials through phishing emails or malware. They can make online purchases with the card info.
Once criminals get ahold of card data, they use it quickly to buy gift cards, electronics, luxury goods, and other items that are easy to re-sell. They often make fraudulent online purchases that are harder to trace.
Hot Spots for Credit Card Fraud in New York
Some areas in New York have become hot spots for credit card fraud activity:
- Manhattan: With its concentration of high-end retailers, restaurants, hotels, and services, Manhattan attracts a lot of fraud. Criminals use stolen cards to go on shopping sprees for expensive designer clothing, jewelry, and other luxuries.
- Brooklyn: The trendy shops and eateries of Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Park Slope are targeted by fraudsters using counterfeit cards. Gas stations, bodegas, and delis are also common Brooklyn fraud locations.
- Queens: Astoria and Long Island City are Queens fraud hot spots, with criminals drawn to the area’s retail stores and supermarkets. Laundromats are often hit too, since they have card readers for customers to add money to laundry cards.
- The Bronx: Fraud activity is high around major shopping areas in the Bronx like the Hub, Bay Plaza, and Yankee Stadium. Criminals tend to use stolen cards at check cashing locations, delis, fast food restaurants, and discount stores.
- Staten Island: The Staten Island Mall attracts criminals seeking to buy gift cards, electronics, and designer items with fraudulent cards. Big box stores like Target are also targeted.
New York Laws on Credit Card Fraud
There are a number of felony charges that can be brought in New York credit card fraud cases:
- Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (NY PL 155.30(4)) – Stealing a credit or debit card, or stealing a wallet containing cards, is automatically a class E felony. Each stolen card is a separate charge.
- Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree (NY PL 165.45(2)) – Knowingly possessing stolen credit cards is a class E felony. Each card possessed is a distinct offense.
- Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree (NY PL 170.25) – Possessing an altered credit card or fully counterfeit card with intent to defraud is a class D felony. Each fake card constitutes a separate charge.
- Forgery in the Second Degree (NY PL 170.10) – Making a fake credit card or altering a real card with intent to defraud is a class D felony. Signing a receipt with a fake card may also qualify as forgery.
- Identity Theft in the First and Second Degree (NY PL 190.80 and 190.79) – Stealing someone’s identity and using it to obtain and use their credit card is identity theft, ranging from class D to class B felonies depending on value stolen.
Penalties for felony credit card fraud in New York can include significant jail time and fines. For example, a class D felony carries up to 7 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. A class B felony can result in up to 25 years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines.
Defenses Against Credit Card Fraud Charges
If you’ve been accused of credit card fraud, working with an experienced criminal defense attorney from the start is critical. Some possible defenses include:
- You did not physically possess the credit cards in question
- The cards were not actually counterfeit or stolen
- Someone else used your identity to open fraudulent accounts
- You did not have intent to defraud required for conviction
- Your use of the card was authorized or you had permission
- Violations of search and seizure laws led to evidence being found
- You were unaware the card was stolen
A knowledgeable attorney can evaluate the specifics of your case and build the strongest defense. They may be able to get charges reduced or dismissed through effective negotiation with the prosecution.
How to Protect Yourself from Credit Card Fraud
While credit card companies cover most fraud costs, it’s wise to take precautions to avoid becoming a victim:
- Check statements frequently for any unauthorized charges
- Set up transaction alerts on all credit cards to detect fraud fast
- Avoid using debit cards for purchases to limit fraud risk
- Use credit cards with EMV chip technology which is harder to counterfeit
- Only swipe cards at reputable establishments and check for skimmers
- Do not give out card information over the phone unless you initiated the call
- Shred credit card statements, expired cards, and junk mail with personal info
- Never share card numbers or security codes over email or text
- Use strong unique passwords for all financial accounts
What to Do If You’re a Victim of Credit Card Fraud
If you discover fraudulent charges on your statement or suspicious account activity, take these steps:
- Call your credit card company immediately to report the charges – they will investigate and close the compromised account
- File a police report with your local law enforcement agency to create a paper trail
- Place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports to prevent further misuse of your identity
- Monitor all financial accounts closely for additional signs of fraud
- Change passwords on any accounts that may have been compromised
- Consider adding an extended fraud alert or credit freeze if identity theft is suspected
- Dispute fraudulent charges and provide documentation to card issuers to avoid liability
- Sign up for credit monitoring to catch any new accounts opened in your name
By acting quickly and working with card companies, you can limit the damage from credit card fraud. A credit freeze can also help prevent criminals from opening new fraudulent accounts.
The Bottom Line
Credit card fraud continues to rise in New York, especially in busy retail areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Criminals steal card information through skimmers, hacking, mail theft, and fake cards. They use the cards to buy high value goods for resale.
If charged with credit card fraud, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help fight the case and seek reduced or dismissed charges where appropriate. Avoiding fraud means monitoring statements vigilantly, using fraud alerts, and taking precautions with card usage. If you are victimized, act fast to report it and contain the damage. With awareness and caution, New Yorkers can outsmart fraudsters trying to steal their hard-earned money.