Credit Card Abuse Charges in Texas
Under the law, you are allowed to use a credit card (or debit card) only if it has your name on it or if the owner has specifically authorized you to use it. Fraud is defined as the use of deceit for the purpose of obtaining some benefit to which the fraudster is not legally entitled. In this case, it is obtaining benefit from someone else’s creditworthiness. There is no difference, legally speaking, between credit card abuse and credit card fraud. They refer to the same act.
Under Texas Penal Code Section 32.31, a person commits a credit card offense if, in the words of the code:
(1) with intent to obtain a benefit fraudulently, he presents or uses a credit card or debit card with knowledge that:
(A) the card, whether or not expired, has not been issued to him and is not used with the effective consent of the cardholder; or
(B) the card has expired or has been revoked or cancelled;
(2) with intent to obtain a benefit, he uses a fictitious credit card or debit card or the pretended number or description of a fictitious card;
(3) he receives a benefit that he knows has been obtained in violation of this section;
(4) he steals a credit card or debit card or, with knowledge that it has been stolen, receives a credit card or debit card with intent to use it, to sell it, or to transfer it to a person other than the issuer or the cardholder;
(5) he buys a credit card or debit card from a person who he knows is not the issuer;
(6) not being the issuer, he sells a credit card or debit card;
(7) he uses or induces the cardholder to use the cardholder's credit card or debit card to obtain property or service for the actor's benefit for which the cardholder is financially unable to pay;
(8) not being the cardholder, and without the effective consent of the cardholder, he possesses a credit card or debit card with intent to use it;
(9) he possesses two or more incomplete credit cards or debit cards that have not been issued to him with intent to complete them without the effective consent of the issuer. For purposes of this subdivision, a card is incomplete if part of the matter that an issuer requires to appear on the card before it can be used, other than the signature of the cardholder, has not yet been stamped, embossed, imprinted, or written on it;
(10) being authorized by an issuer to furnish goods or services on presentation of a credit card or debit card, he, with intent to defraud the issuer or the cardholder, furnishes goods or services on presentation of a credit card or debit card obtained or retained in violation of this section or a credit card or debit card that is forged, expired, or revoked; or
(11) being authorized by an issuer to furnish goods or services on presentation of a credit card or debit card, he, with intent to defraud the issuer or a cardholder, fails to furnish goods or services that he represents in writing to the issuer that he has furnished.
Intent to Use a Credit
It’s important to note that credit card abuse or fraud in Texas can occur even if fraudulently obtained credit information, or a card itself, is never used for personal gain. So long as the intent exists to use fake, bought, or stolen credit cards or credit information, then fraud can be charged.
Intent, however, is also an essential element in any credit card abuse charge, as you can see from the 11 examples given above — “intent” is included in several of them. Intent can sometimes be tricky to prove. The accused can argue that they used the card mistakenly, or that they had permission to use the card with a vow to pay the cardholder back.
As mentioned previously, a credit card abuse conviction, barring aggravating circumstances or prior criminal history that can elevate the penalty, can result in a first-time penalty of six months to two years in jail, along with a maximum $10,000 fine. If the offense is committed against a senior citizen, jail time can be from two to ten years. Credit card and debit card fraud can also be prosecuted under federal law with up to 15 years in jail for a first offense.