Massachusetts Credit and Debit Card Fraud Laws

What is Credit Card Fraud?

Credit (and debit) card fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S. According to Massachusetts law, credit card fraud encompasses a number of different offenses involving the illegal use of credit cards by a defendant for some sort of monetary gain.

Credit Card Fraud Explanation

Massachusetts laws explicitly prohibit the following:

  1. Knowingly making false statements in order to obtain a credit card,
  2. Stealing a credit card with the intent to use or sell the card,
  3. Receiving a credit card that the defendant knows has been lost or stolen and keeping the credit card with the intent to sell or use the card,
  4. Selling or buying a credit card without being authorized to do so,
  5. Keeping and using a credit card that was mistakenly delivered to the wrong address or person,
  6. Falsely making a fraudulent credit card,
  7. Falsely using a credit card without the owner's permission,
  8. Using a credit card in violation of the previous conditions in order to obtain money, goods or services of more than $250.

Identity Theft

Another type of credit card fraud crime is known as identity theft . As the name suggests, these schemes do not require the criminal to have the victim’s physical card, just the credit card number or personal identifying information of a vicitm is enough. The fraud is accomplished by using the victim's Social Security number and birthdate, for example, to apply for credit cards under their name.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Massachusetts credit card fraud laws. See Are You Responsible for Unauthorized Credit Card Charges?, Fraud and Financial Crimes, Theft Overview, and Business Data Breach and Customer ID Theft for more information.

Code Sections

MGL Chapter 266, Section 37C,37E et seq.

What is Prohibited

See explanation above

Penalties

Felony or misdemeanor, class depends on facts and nature of the crime including prior criminal history. Prision or jail sentence, fines, restitution to the victim

Definition of a Credit Card

"Credit card" means any instrument or device, whether known as a credit card, credit plate, or by any other name, issued with or without fee by an issuer for the use of the cardholder in obtaining money, goods, services or anything else of value on credit.

Victim Restitution

A victim of identity theft may bring a civil suit against a person who has used his or her personal identifying information. The court may award the victim costs of the identity theft, including the costs of clearing the victim’s credit history, court costs, and attorneys’ fees.

What to Do If You Are a Victim

1. Report the incident to a law enforcement agency:

A person who believes they are a victim of an identity theft or credit card fraud is encouraged to promptly report those facts to a law enforcement agency. In Massachusetts a victim can report credit card fraud theft to the Attorney General Consumer Hotline, (617) 727-8400 or a local law enforcement agency .

2. Notify your credit card company immediately :

Note the date, time and person to whom you reported the loss or theft. Once you report the loss or theft, you are not responsible for charges you didn’t authorize. Your maximum liability under federal law is $50 per card

3. Contact the three major credit card bureaus:

4. Opt out of getting credit card offers in the mail by calling 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5OPT-OUT):

You'll be asked to provide some personal information such as name, address and Social Security number, but that information will be used only to process your request

Because Massachusetts consumer and criminal laws can sometimes get complicated, it may also be a good idea to consult an experienced consumer protection or criminal defense lawyer if you have questions about your specific situation.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.