Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud is a complex criminal offense, which is vigorously prosecuted by authorities. An accusation of credit card fraud can have serious consequences for individuals and businesses. If you are a person facing allegations of credit card fraud, you may be facing jail time and hefty fines, if convicted. In addition, if you own a business, you may also risk losing something for which you have worked very hard.
If you are under investigation for credit card fraud or if you are facing allegations of credit card fraud, you need the help and guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable Santa Clarita white collar criminal defense lawyer at The Law Offices of Daniel E. Kann. Through a consultation on your case with our experienced legal team, you can fully understand the charges you or a loved one is facing and the best steps to take in defending against charges.
Credit Card Fraud under Federal Law
U.S. Code Title 18 Part 1 Chapter 47 Section 1029 (1) states it is illegal for an individual to "without the authorization of the credit card system member or its agent, knowingly and with intent to defraud causes or arranges for another person to present to the member or its agent, for payment, one or more evidences or records of transactions made by an access device."
Common Types of Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud may be committed in several ways. For example, a person could use a stolen credit card to buy items from a store. Another growing trend involves Internet credit card fraud. This could occur when someone uses a stolen credit card to order and purchase items sold on the Internet.
Other serious types of credit card fraud include the following:
- Running facilities where illegal or counterfeit credit cards are produced or manufactured
- Buying items with stolen credit cards
- Hacking into a web site with the intention of stealing credit card information
- Selling items purchased with stolen credit cards over the Internet or for cash
- Trafficking credit cards
- Possessing machines or materials to counterfeit credit cards
Penalties for Credit Card Fraud
Under federal law, credit card fraud can be punished by up to 10 years in prison. A person convicted of credit card fraud could in some cases serve up to 20 years in prison depending on the circumstances of the case and the extent of the fraud.
Credit Card Fraud under California Law
Additionally, credit card fraud is illegal under California law pursuant to California Penal Code Sections 484e, 484f, 484g, 484h, 484i, and 484j.
Penal Code Section 484e
Penal Code Section 484e states that anyone who "sells, transfers, or conveys, an access card, without the cardholder's or issuer's consent" can be charged with grand theft. Grand theft can be charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by one year in county jail, as well as a felony, which can be punished by 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison for one count of the crime. However, credit card fraud often involves multiple alleged crimes and multiple victims. As such, a defendant can face multiple charges, possibly leading to decades in prison if convicted.
Penal Code Section 484f
Penal Code Section 484f refers to forging or creating a counterfeit credit card or access card or using a forged or counterfeited credit card with the intent to defraud. If one is convicted under this code section they will be convicted of forgery. Charged as a felony, this charge carries up to three years in state prison. Charged as a misdemeanor, the charge is punishable by up to one year in county jail.
Penal Code Section 484g
Penal Code Section 484g applies to the fraudulent use of an access card, access card information that has been altered, obtained or retained with the intent to defraud in violation of Penal Code Sections 484e or 484f. If the value of the goods or services fraudulently obtained exceeded $950, the defendant can be convicted of the crime of Grand Theft under Penal code Section 487 which is punishable by up to three years in state prison. If the amount of goods or services is under $950 the defendant can be convicted of Petty Theft under Penal Code Section 484 which is punishable by up to one year in county jail.
Penal Code Section 484h
Penal Code Section 484h is violated when a retailer provides goods or services for a credit card or access card that they know to be fraudulent, expired, or revoked in violation of Penal Code Section 484e. If the value of the goods or services exceeds $950, the crime is punishable as Grand Theft under Penal Code Section 487 and is punishable by up to three years in state prison. If the amount is less than $950, the defendant can be convicted of Petty Theft under Penal Code Section 484 and is punishable by up to one year in county jail.
Penal Code Section 484i
Penal Code Section 484i is violated when one is in possession of an incomplete credit card with the intent to complete it without the consent of the issuer. This code section is also violated when one alters, changes, or modifies any part of the credit card including changes to the face of the card or changes to the information contained in the magnetic strip with the intent to defraud. Penal Code Section 484i is also violated when one makes, possesses, or traffics credit card making equipment or incomplete credit cards knowing that the recipient will make counterfeit cards.
Punishments for conviction of Penal Code Section 484i are as follows:
Possession of an incomplete credit card with the intent to complete it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1000.
If your conviction involves equipment that makes cards, the crime can be charged as a wobbler, punishable by 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in state prison if you are convicted of the crime as felony, or up to six months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1000 if you are convicted of the crime as a misdemeanor.
Penal Code Section 484j
Penal Code Section 484j is violated if you publish information about a credit card or debit card, debit card PIN, passwords, or bank account information with the intent to commit fraud. The act of publishing information includes communicating on a computer, over the internet, orally or in writing. Penal Code Section 484j is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1000.
Legal or "affirmative" defenses to a charge of credit card fraud include:
- Lack of intent to defraud
- Insufficient evidence
- Mistaken identity
Protecting Yourself from Credit Card Fraud Convictions
Prosecutors of credit card fraud seek to prove that a defendant illegally gained access to the cards of victims with the intent to defraud victims. A skilled defense attorney uses evidence, witness testimony, and character witnesses to show that a defendant either did not commit the crime in question, or had no criminal intent during the incident. Often, simple misunderstandings and confusion can lead to officials believing that he or she was in pursuit of personal gain at the expense of another.
Not all criminal charges can be disproved or dismissed. However, in such cases, skillful negotiations and plea bargaining can be used to lessen the possible sentences for a defendant. While prosecutors seek harsh judgments against defendants, they are also open to lesser sentences through negotiations. Lesser sentences can keep a defendant from serving years in jail in favor of probation and fines and a criminal record that has less of an impact on his or her future.
Skillful Representation against Fraud Charges
If you or a loved one has been charged with credit card fraud, please contact Santa Clarita credit card fraud lawyer Daniel E. Kann for a free and comprehensive consultation and find out if your case can be dismissed. Credit card fraud cases can be complex and often involve multiple parties. Call us today so our attorneys can provide you the strong defense and quality legal representation that you deserve.