Keller, TX asked in Consumer Law for Maryland

Q: I am looking for the specific law or code regarding authorized credit card use

Specifically the code referencing that "it is illegal for an authorized credit card user to continue to use the card after the primary card holder dies".

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Various criminal code provisions may or may not apply to your facts. I've answered this question previously with reference to the card holder agreement and the effect of the death of the primary account holder on the legality of an authorized user to continue to use the card.

Criminal Code, Section 8-206(b)(1): "A person may not, with the intent to defraud another, obtain money, goods, services, or anything of value by representing ... without the consent of the cardholder, that the person is the holder of a specified credit card ..." This provision may apply to defrauding either the estate of the card holder, or the credit card company, depending on the facts.

Criminal Code 8-209(a) : "A person may not receive money, goods, services, or anything of value if the person knows or believes that the money, goods, services, or other thing of value was obtained in violation of § 8-206 of this subtitle."

Criminal Code 7-104, General Theft provisions. These sections would apply to any unauthorized use of a credit card to obtain goods or services. Just because the credit card was authorized when the card holder was alive, does not mean that authorization to use the card continues after death of the card holder. There may be defenses based upon criminal intent, e.g., not knowing that the death of the card older revoked your authorization to use the card--but then, ho did you think was going to pay for your purchases? Unless the card you were using actually bears your name, and you receive an account statement and make the payments on it, I believe most judges will find this defense lacking.

If the deceased card holder was elderly and you took advantage of them by charging large amounts of merchandise or services on the card for your own benefit an not theirs, an they were unable to fully know or understand the scope of what you were doing at their expense, then you may be charged with elder financial abuse, which is covered under various sections of the Criminal Code, the Finance Code, and the Family Law Code.

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