Texas Credit Card Fraud and Theft Crimes Increase Due to New Technology; Houston Defense Lawyer Analyzes Texas Criminal Penalties

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Identity theft has steadily increased over recent years due in large part to radio frequency identification, also known as RFID. This new technology gives thieves access to credit card information through devices that can be purchased online. Matt Horak, Houston criminal defense lawyer, examines the criminal penalties that could be associated with credit card fraud and identity theft.

Anyone who is caught using another person’s credit card information could also be charged with various theft offenses, depending on how the stolen information is used and the amount stolen from the victim, states Houston lawyer Matt Horak.

As technological advances have caused identity theft to become a significant threat, more people are becoming victims of electronic credit card fraud and identity theft in Texas. Many of these electronic crimes are the result of RFID, also known as radio frequency identification. RFID is a type of technology that uses radio waves to transfer data from a chip found in the object to a reader or scanner.

The RFID chip is often found in many credit cards, passports and driver’s licenses, and allows cardholders to simply swipe their credit card or other form of identification in front of a scanner or receiver that reads the card’s information. RFID readers are readily available for purchase online for a fee.

An investigative story on June 16 by Joel Eisenbaum of KPRC Local 2 News in Houston reports many people are unaware of the RFID technology in their card, and their banks usually don’t tell them the chip is in their card. A security expert interviewed in the story claims the scanners or readers can read credit card information within seconds, including the type of card, the card number and the expiration date of the card.

Identity theft or identity fraud is up all over the county, according to a survey published by the Federal Trade Commission in 2009. The survey reports Texas has one of the highest rates of complaints for identity theft in the United States, which is about 130.3 people per 100,000.

Houston white collar attorney Matt Horak states, “Any individual who purchases an RFID reader can walk past a person’s wallet and gain their credit card information without their knowledge. These individuals can be charged with serious white collar offenses, including identity fraud and credit card fraud, if they are caught.”

According to chapter 32 of the Texas Penal Code, an individual who takes another person’s credit card can be prosecuted in Houston for credit card fraud, which can either be a state jail felony or a felony of the third degree, depending on who the theft was committed against.

Stealing another person’s identifying information can be prosecuted in Texas as identity fraud, which can result in a state jail felony, felony of the third degree, felony of the second degree or felony of the first degree, depending on the number of items obtained from the theft.

“Anyone who is caught using another person’s credit card information could also be charged with various theft offenses, depending on the how the stolen information is used and the amount stolen from the victim,” advises Horak, a theft lawyer in Houston.

Chapter 31 of the Texas Penal Code defines theft crimes as ranging anywhere from a Class C misdemeanor to a felony of the first degree, depending on the value of the property stolen, the type of victim, and the type of offender.

According to Horak, “Identity fraud and credit card fraud usually result in felony convictions in Texas, and depending on the degree of the crime and the circumstances surrounding the offense, penalties can range anywhere from 180 days in jail to 99 years in prison, in addition to a possible $10,000 fine.”

The penalties for misdemeanor theft offenses can range from a fine not more than $500 for a Class C misdemeanor to a one year jail sentence and a fine up to $4,000 for a Class A misdemeanor, according to Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code.

Matt Horak of the law firm Matt Horak, Attorney at Law, PLLC is a Houston criminal defense lawyer who represents individuals accused of theft and white collar offenses throughout Harris County, Texas and surrounding areas in Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, Liberty County, Galveston County and Waller County.

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