As many as 78 percent of consumers have a credit card, according to the CreditCards.com website. Although credit cards can be valuable when properly used, some card holders will face credit card debt they cannot pay. Occasionally, this debt is the result of fraud. Your credit card company and legal authorities may try to take you to court to collect the debt, but statutes of limitations apply to credit card fraud cases.
Factors Affecting Statutes of Limitations
Multiple factors determine how long a credit card company or law enforcement agency has to charge someone with credit card fraud. They include the state in which you live, the exact charges the law enforcement agency wishes to pursue and the method by which the credit card fraud occurred. The type of credit card contract you have — for example, oral or written — also affects the statutes of limitations on credit card fraud and debt.
Range of Statutes of Limitations
Fraud that occurs with an oral credit card agreement has a limitation of between two and 10 years, depending on your state. Written and promissory agreements have a range of between three and 15 years. The range for open-ended accounts is three to eight years.
Beginning of Statute
Because every state has different credit card fraud statutes of limitations, the time when the statute begins to run is a major factor in credit card fraud cases. The statute of limitations typically begins to apply once you deviate from the terms of your contract. With credit cards, this usually is when you fail to pay your bill, according to the Credit InfoCenter website, but it will depend on the terms of your credit card agreement and the type of credit card fraud that occurred. Some companies have acceleration clauses in the credit card contract that the creditor has to apply before the statute begins to run.
In some states like Michigan and Minnesota, laws are on the books that prevent a partial payment from restarting the statute clock. In these states, you have to have a written statement indicating a new promise to pay. You cannot simply send in money to the credit card company and assume you are in the clear.
Rights After Expiration
If the statute of limitations in your state expires and no charges have been filed, the credit card company essentially forfeits its right to pursue action against the person who committed the fraud or who holds the account. You have the right to not pay the debt if this happens. Unfortunately, people not aware of this fact continue to pay fraud debts for which they are no longer responsible.
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.