BACK

Your Business Credit

Who goes to jail for fraudulent credit card use?

Summary

Businesses that accept stolen credit card information may be on the hook for a refund. But the thief is the one who broke the law — and cardholders need to take steps to prevent further damage

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

QuestionDear Your Business Credit,
Someone copied the info on my credit card, walked into the store and told the merchant they lost their card but knew the numbers and the merchant manually typed in the info and I’ve now lost $2,000. I was in the hospital at the time. Who is going to jail? The person giving the info or the business that accepted it? — Sandra

AnswerDear Sandra,
Sorry to hear that you have to tackle this nightmare after a hospital stay. What a hassle!

Fortunately, the problem should be relatively easy to rectify, as long as long as the theft was very recent.

You need to dispute the charge directly with the credit card company right away, says Robert Brennan, an attorney in La Crescenta, Calif., whose specialties include identity theft cases. “If you wait too long, the credit card company will not accept the dispute. Each card company has its own period for disputing, but it’s usually pretty short.”

Brennan recommends some other steps to protect yourself. “The person who stole the identity should be prosecuted and your reader needs to file a police report,” says Brennan. “The merchant will not go to jail but may be on the hook for a refund.”

Since it doesn’t sound like you know who committed the theft, make sure you stop the crook from striking again. After you dispute the charges, “quickly cancel the card,” advises Leslie Tayne, an attorney based in Melville, N.Y., who advises businesses and individuals on credit and debt.

Cases like yours are a reminder of how common identity theft has become. The U.S. Department of Justice estimated that about 7 percent of people ages 16 or older were victims of identity theft in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics were available. Among these incidents, 85 percent involved someone’s bank account or credit card number.

It is easy to feel helpless to stop identity theft, since some criminals use high-tech methods to get their hands on consumers’ credit card numbers. None of us can prevent every scenario but there are a few things we can all do to protect ourselves.

  • Make sure no one is “shoulder surfing”-that is, looking over your shoulder-when you are paying with a credit card in the store. The Department of Justice’s website says that this is a still a common way to steal credit card numbers. My advice: Don’t use your credit or debit card in stores where it is easy for people to crowd you at the checkout or the PIN pad offers others an easy view of your transaction. if you are shopping with others, it is easy to get distracted and forget to keep an eye out for suspicious people.
  • Limit what you say on your mobile phone in public. Thieves often swipe people’s credit card numbers by listening to cardholders’ conversations with hotel or rental car companies, according to the Department of Justice. If you must make a transaction on the go, step into a quiet area where no one is around. Don’t do it from a busy lobby or the back of a cab.
  • Get a home shredder. Make sure to use it on every check and credit card or bank statement before throwing them in the trash. Some thieves use dumpster diving to find them, the department notes, and it only takes one stray receipt to give a criminal access to your account number.

Of course, identity thieves constantly come up with new methods to do their dirty work, so none of us can prevent every scenario. Act immediately if you have lost a credit or debit card — or notice any unexplained charges on your credit card statement. That way, you’ll be able to prevent the problem from escalating.

See related:Hackers up the ante for small-business data security, Protecting your business from credit card fraud

 

What’s up next?

In Your Business Credit

Compare rewards cards for business gas spending

If your business buys gasoline, why not be rewarded? Business credit cards and specialized fleet cards both offer programs to reward and track fuel purchases

Published: May 5, 2014

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: September 18th, 2019
Business
15.45%
Airline
17.38%
Cash Back
17.52%
Reward
17.39%
Student
17.58%

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.