How far can a bank go to press charges on a credit card?

6 years ago my grandma died, everything
has been settled. I was grabbing the
mail for my mom when I saw mail for my
deceased grandma. Not wanting to upset
my mom I put it in my purse and forgot
about it. Later I found it and realized
it was a credit card, one that had
never been used or activated, so I
activated it and used it to pay some
bills and buy my kids christmas. How
much trouble am I in? The bank told my
mom to contact the police, my mom said
no. I know the bank is insured for
fraud, so how far will they take it?

Asked on March 16, 2016 under Criminal Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) Make no mistake, what you did was theft: you used someone else's money (the bank's money) to which you were not entitled (since it was not your card). Theft is a crime, even if the victim isn't hurt by it--it is theft, for example, to steal a paperwork novel  from Donald Trump, even though he can afford millions or billions of them. So the bank could press criminal charges against you. The fact that the bank has insurance does not make it not theft, the same way as if I have insurance on my car but someone steals it, it is theft.
If you took several hundred dollars or you could be looking at a meaningful amount of jail time.
2) You can be sued by the bank for the full amount you charged and possibly their legal/lawyer fees in suing you, too.
So you are potentially in a lot of trouble.

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