Credit Card Fraud in New Jersey

With the emergence of e-commerce, mobile banking, and breaches of stored personal data, incidents of credit card theft and fraud persist.  The FBI summarizes credit card fraud as unlawful usage of a card in an attempt to illegally obtain something of value. Many acts of credit card theft today are associated with crimes of identity theft. The following chart summarizes the five leading types of activity within this category of criminal activity.

2018 Data


Credit Card: New Accounts


Misc. Identity Theft


Tax-Related Fraud


Mobile Phone-Related


Credit Card: Existing Accounts


Credit Card Crime in New Jersey

The state ranks 7th in the total number of reported credit card crimes committed. There are an estimated 46 incidents for every 100,000 people. Among all types of identity theft that occur statewide, roughly 43% involve credit cards. The New Jersey State Police has a Financial Crimes Investigation Unit (FIU) that is the largest agency in the state that handles investigations that relate to credit card fraud, as well as crimes of embezzlement, racketeering, bad checks, and casino-related offenses. 

Illegally Obtaining a New Credit Card

One common type of fraudulent activity is when someone applies for a credit card using another person's identity or on behalf of an organization. The credit card application is submitted without the knowledge of the victim. If the card is issued and the perpetrator is able to obtain the card, they then use it for their own benefit. This is currently a fourth-degree criminal offense.

Someone may obtain possession of an existing credit card without the knowledge of the cardholder. The cardholder may accidentally leave the card somewhere or may lose their wallet. Someone may seek to sell the card to another party as well. These are all fourth-degree criminal offenses.

Making a Credit Card

A criminal may illegally create a credit card. They may emboss a card with someone else's account number and cardholder name. This involves “falsely making” a credit card using some device or instrument that appears to be a card created by an issuer. These acts all involve a clear intent to defraud and may involve cards that are “forged, expired, or revoked.” All of these are charged as third-degree criminal offenses.

An individual, employee, or agent that is authorized to accept credit cards may use a card to pay for products or services that they did not render. Another related crime may occur when an individual receives something of value, including money, goods, or services, that they are aware of was obtained from fraudulent credit card activity. These two crimes are both charged as fourth-degree offenses.

Criminal Use of Scanning Devices and Re-encoders

A payment card is defined as any credit card, charge card, or debit card that is accepted by a merchant for purchasing goods or services. A scanning device is defined as a “scanner, skimmer, or reader” that is used to “access, read, scan, obtain, memorize, or store” any data that is encoded within the strip of a payment card. A re-encoder is some electronic tool that is capable of transferring the encoded data stored on one payment card to another.

It is a third-degree criminal offense to intentionally commit a fraudulent act that victimizes an authorized user, a merchant, or the issuer of a payment card by the following actions:

  • Using a scanning device to access and store the encoded data within a payment card without obtaining permission to do so from the cardholder
  • To use a re-encoder to transfer encoded data from a payment card to another card or medium without obtaining the permission to do so from the cardholder
  • It is a fourth-degree offense to possess any device, equipment, or other related apparatus when there is intent to commit such fraudulent activity

Credit Card Skimming

Electronic “skimmers” are now capable of revealing data including addresses, phone numbers, credit limits, and PIN numbers. They were originally designed for legitimately approving credit card transactions. In recent years, small handheld devices have been used by criminals to discreetly scan a credit or debit card to capture personal data. The issuing banks and credit card companies have generally absorbed the losses that occur; however, it certainly increases fees and interest rates that consumers encounter.

New Credit Card “Chip” Security Technology

In 2015 in the U.S., a transition began toward credit cards that were not susceptible to skimming. Cards are now equipped with an EMV chip that eliminates the need for the magnetic strips. Merchants have been motivated to comply with having EMV processing equipment because the credit card companies began charging them for disputed transactions. Visa recently reported that EMV technology has reduced credit card fraud by over 75%.

New Jersey Identity Theft Prevention Act

Crimes associated with identity theft commonly involve unlawfully obtaining personal data in order to illegally acquire credit cards and various other financial articles in someone else's name. The New Jersey Identity Theft Prevention Act seeks to prevent someone from linking a person's first name or first initial and last name with other key personal data. This may include a number from a credit or debit card with some related code or password that allows access to an account.

Forgery-Related Offenses (2C:21-18)

The state implemented the Casino Control Act in 1977. The provisions prohibit inserting or depositing a “slug, key, tool, instrument, explosive device” into a machine that is activated with coins, currency, or credit cards in order to commit fraud. A slug is defined as some type of article that is used to illegally mimic a coin, currency, or credit card.

Potential Penalties and Importance of Experienced Defense Counsel

For crimes of the third degree, a maximum of five years of imprisonment and a $15,000 fine may be imposed. For crimes of the fourth degree, those convicted may face a maximum 18-month sentence and $10,000 fine. Based on the potentially significant consequences, those who face these charges should choose their defense counsel wisely.

Legal Representation for Allegations of Theft or Fraud

Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands the potential severity of the penalties that may be imposed on those convicted of credit card theft. He clearly identifies the evidence and circumstances that are associated with the allegations and promptly begins to devise a formidable strategy of defense. Contact the office at (888) 535-3686 for a complimentary case evaluation.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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