Georgia Financial Transaction Fraud Law FAQS

Is Transaction Fraud Credit Card Fraud?

It can be but not necessarily. Financial transaction fraud means using some financial data that’s not yours. For instance, lying about something to a bank. There are all kinds of ways it can be committed without someone actually having your card. For example, when it comes to government benefits, some people will lie about how long they’ve been unemployed or how many people are in their household. Neither of those examples involve a card, but they are both considered financial transaction fraud, which is a felony grade.

Is Transaction Fraud a Felony in Georgia?

Yes. However, if you have a very small amount, you might be able to reduce the charges. They look at the amount, how long it took place, and the penalties in order to judge whether or not the charges should be reduced.

What Are the Most Common Types of Financial Transaction Fraud?

The most common types usually involve a card. For example, someone finds a credit card that’s not theirs, and they try to run it for what they can. Or, someone steals a card’s numbers. There are ways to get that kind of information, especially with all the online shopping that people do.

Other common types involve lying or stretching the truth on government forms. For example, IRS tax, unemployment, government benefit, housing benefit, and child support forms. With rises in unemployment and such, anytime there’s a government form, if something’s a lie or not quite the truth, then it’s a financial transaction fraud.

What Are the Potential Penalties for Financial Transactional Fraud?

Usually, it’s punished pretty severely. With it being felony grade, most of the time, you’re looking at up to a thousand dollars. Some cases may increase those penalties to over a thousand or one to two years of jail time. However, that depends on whether or not the charge is only financial transaction fraud.

If it’s involving a card, a lot of times, the penalty can be one to three years of imprisonment, which could be probated. But even if you have nothing on your record, if you commit financial transactional fraud, you could be facing one to three years in prison.

What Types of Financial Transactional Fraud Carry the Heaviest Punishments?

Definitely the ones involving cards. In a lot of these cases, it is revealed that they are using wires. If they transmit it to a bank that is FDIC insured or use it online, it could be a federal crime if the government seeks to prosecute it. Federal crimes with these are very different than state crimes. The penalties are harsher, and if it’s a big enough amount or done a certain way to defraud someone, such as a government agency, then that will carry federal penalties with it. These penalties can include fines from five thousand to a million dollars and imprisonment from two to fifteen years.

Does the Amount of Money or the Timeframe Matter in These Types of Cases?

In Georgia, it does. If it’s in a six-month period, what they’ll do is take a look back and see if the amount exceeded a hundred dollars. If it’s something small, then that can help keep the penalties a little bit less, and you can start talking about one to two years. If it’s higher than that or has gone on for a much longer amount of time, then the penalties can get closer to two or three years of added imprisonment time. The longer it goes on, the more the stakes are raised. So, the time and amount matters, and everyone, including the courts and prosecutors, will look at it to determine how to proceed with the case.

Can Someone Be Convicted of a Financial Transactional Fraud If They Stole Your Information but Haven’t Used It Yet?

It is not considered a financial transaction fraud, but it is considered an attempt crime. An attempt crime is when they can show that someone took a substantial step toward committing a crime. For example, if someone stole your information, and you can prove that they stole it from you, but they haven’t use it yet, then it’s not financial transaction fraud. However, once they use it, then it is a financial transaction fraud.

In Georgia, attempt crimes are punishable at half the punishment of the actual completed crime. So, it is a totally separate crime. Of course, attempt crimes can also add up. So, if they show that someone took multiple cards, they may receive multiple attempt charges, which can add up consecutively.

Can Business Owners and Employees Be Charged with Financial Transaction Fraud When They Knowingly Accept a Fraudulent Credit or Debit Card?

If they knowingly accept it, yes. And the way to do that is under what they call a conspiracy. Basically, any time two or more people agree to something or appear to be trying to accomplish the same purpose and that purpose is illegal, then that’s a conspiracy charge and you can hold both of them liable. So, someone that’s doing that can be held as responsible as the person who is actually using the card or using the information. And it’s one of those things where you can’t bury your head in the sand, either. If someone comes in, and you know it’s fake, you can’t get around it by saying, “I didn’t know it but I had hunches.” Especially with federal cases, conspiracy can carry additional penalties on top of the crime itself because that makes the sentencing guidelines worse for federal crimes.

Can Business Owners Be Liable If They Accepted Fraudulent Cards Unknowingly?

If businesses truly do not know that something is financial transaction fraud, there’s really no way that they can be held criminally responsible. Now again it comes down to whether or not they seem to bury their head in the sand. If the circumstances lead to where a reasonable person would know that something doesn’t seem right—for example, if the cardholder’s name is female and there’s a male presenting it—and they don’t investigate it, that can sometimes cause a business to become liable. But as far as a criminal liability, you need intent. You need knowledge or at least some sort of strong inference that you should have investigated and just didn’t.

If You’ve Accidentally Committed Transactional Fraud, Should You Reach Out to the Victim to Avoid Legal Repercussions?

I would never recommend that. People do that all the time. Sometimes, their first instinct is to reach out and say, “I made a mistake,” and that’s never a good idea. This is because anything that they say can then be used against them. There’s no guarantee that apologizing will get the person to go away. Sometimes, if it’s a small enough amount or the relationship is close enough, it’s beneficial for someone to hire an attorney to go after the other person and say, “Hey, I understand something happened. Without admitting liability, we would like to resolve this if we can.” Sometimes, that’s the best way to get it done. Reaching out to the victim is never a good idea. If someone has already done that, we usually have to mitigate and try to fix it. We try to make sure that they didn’t actually say they were guilty or had done anything because it’s not helpful for the case, and it’s not helpful for them personally.

Do You Have Any Example Case Runs for These Types of Crimes?

Yeah, we handle quite a bit of these, and actually they’re growing as people do more transactions online.

I’ve had one client that had a roommate that wanted to buy something off Amazon, so they took the roommate’s credit card and ordered the item off Amazon. Then, they had a dispute over exactly what it was, how much it was, etc.

I had one client that lied on an unemployed benefit application that said they’d been unemployed for longer than they actually had, and they received substantial money. Then, all of a sudden, the state tried to come back and get them for financial transaction fraud and asked for restitution of thousands and thousands of dollars.

Usually, if we get on early enough and know all the facts, we can either get rid of it completely by reaching out to the victim ourselves or do something to mitigate it and show that it’s not exactly what it was. For example, if the loss is not as high or if it was unintentional. There are forms where this can certainly happen. We’ve had great success with cases like that.

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