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Charged with Credit Card Fraud in Canada? — Here’s What You Should Know

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If you rack up excessive credit card charges and quit remitting payments to the card issuing company, can Ontario police charge you with fraud?

The answer to that question depends on intent. Peel Provincial Police recently charged a Mississauga man with fraud, alleging that he racked up over $1 million in charges with no intention of paying it back. We’re not sure what kind of evidence the police have in this case, but to secure a conviction at trial, the evidence must prove that the man’s actions were intentional. From a defence perspective, we assume that the man could claim that he intended to repay the credit card company but ran into financial difficulties.

In this case, the defendant allegedly committed what is known as “bust-out credit card fraud.” However, he was charged under the Criminal Code’s section addressing basic fraud rather than the section covering credit card fraud. While the defendant allegedly committed fraud, his card usage was legal, thus precluding charges for what is technically known as credit card fraud.

If this seems somewhat confusing, the Greater Toronto Area criminal fraud defence lawyers of Mass Tsang can help you understand what differentiates the two types of fraud. Read on to learn what you should know about credit card fraud in Canada.

Fraud According to the Criminal Code

Section 380 (1) of Canada’s Criminal Code defines fraud as: “[e]very one who, by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, whether or not it is a false pretence within the meaning of this Act, defrauds the public or any person, whether ascertained or not, of any property, money or valuable security or any service.”

This seems simple enough. We assume that the Crown will strive to prove that the Mississauga defendant used deceit, falsehood, or other fraudulent means to first, encourage the credit card company to raise his credit limit to over $1 million (what were they thinking!). And, second, deceitfully racked up charges with no intention of paying them back.

If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. Had the fraud involved $5,000 or less, the defendant would face a maximum two-year sentence.

Credit Card Fraud as Defined by the Code

This type of fraud is defined under Section 342 (1) — "Theft, forgery, etc., of credit card” — of the Criminal Code. Applicable offences include:

  • Stealing a credit card.
  • Forging or falsifying a credit card.
  • Intentionally possessing, using or trafficking “in a credit card or forged or falsified credit card.”
  • Intentionally using “a credit card that has been revoked or cancelled.”

Section 342 (3) adds a further offence covering unauthorized use of credit card data. This is defined as fraudulently using, possessing, trafficking, or allowing others to use actual or fake credit card data and authentication information to obtain goods and services.

If charged with an indictable offence, the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison, while a summary conviction carries a maximum of two years in jail.

What to Know If You’ve Been Charged with Credit Card Fraud

If you’re facing credit card fraud charges in Ontario, you first need to understand that, unlike basic fraud, no monetary threshold differentiates punishment. Credit card fraud involving two cents carries the same potential maximum penalties as credit card fraud involving millions. In fact, police can lay charges even if no money or goods have been fraudulently procured. Merely possessing a stolen or fake credit card or data and authentication information is enough to warrant charges, as is intentionally using a revoked or cancelled card.

The second thing you should understand is that the Crown often has an easier time proving credit card fraud than other types of fraud, except for the offence of intentionally using a revoked or cancelled card. If you use or are in possession of a stolen or fake credit card or data/authentication information, it may be difficult — though not impossible — to claim it was accidental.

You should also know that Ontario Crown prosecutors seem less motivated to prosecute fraud cases aggressively than many other offences. In fact, according to a 2023 CBC investigative report, the Crown withdrew or stayed almost half of overall fraud cases under their purview since 2010. The report cited the following reasons for the lax prosecution:

  • Complicated nature of many fraud cases.
  • Lack of specialized expertise.
  • Limited court resources.
  • Need to prioritize violent crime.
  • Significant court case backlog.

Secure a Favourable Outcome from Your Credit Card Fraud Charges

Based on the Crown’s approach to fraud in Ontario, you may be able to convince prosecutors to drop charges or otherwise secure a favourable outcome from your credit card fraud case. An experienced criminal defence fraud lawyer, like those of the GTA’s Mass Tsang, represents your best option for securing such. Your fraud defence lawyer will examine the Crown’s evidence and narrative about the alleged crime to determine the best strategy for securing a positive resolution. Long before the case goes to trial, your lawyer will likely have many opportunities to negotiate the case’s merits and flaws with prosecutors. Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer may try to convince prosecutors that:

  • Their evidence is weak.
  • The alleged fraud was not intentional.
  • You’re willing to provide restitution to the victim.
  • Taking the case to trial will require significant court resources.
  • The damages caused by the alleged fraud do not warrant severe punishment.
  • You lack a criminal history.
  • Convicting you serves little public interest.
  • Any other factors that can negate their interest in seeing you punished.

If not outright success in securing dropped charges, your defence lawyer may be able to negotiate a reasonable outcome.

Consult the GTA Criminal Defence Fraud Lawyers at Mass Tsang

Despite the apparent lack of Ontario Crown prosecutorial interest in aggressively prosecuting fraud cases, they’re not going to drop your credit card fraud case just because you ask them to. However, an experienced criminal defence lawyer with the legal knowledge, expertise, and persuasive skills may be able to negotiate a favourable settlement, whether withdrawn charges, reduced charges, pre-trial diversion, discharge, suspended sentence, or mitigated penalties. The fraud defence lawyers at Mass Tsang have successfully defended 100s of Greater Toronto Area clients from credit card fraud charges. To secure the best approach for your defence, contact the criminal defence experts at Mass Tsang.



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