Using someone else’s credit card or credit card information without the rightful owner’s permission is illegal in California. Credit card fraud is a form of identity theft, and depending on the facts of the case, it is usually charged as:
- Grand theft
- Petty theft
Depending on how it is charged, credit card fraud can be either a felony or misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to a year in county jail as a misdemeanor, and felony penalties range as high as three years.
If you or someone you know has been accused of credit card fraud, you could benefit by speaking with an attorney. Your attorney can help you navigate the options ahead of you and work to get your charges reduced or dropped entirely.
What is credit card fraud?
“Credit card fraud” is an umbrella term that describes a handful of individual offenses laid out in the California Penal Code. They are:
- Stolen Credit Cards – Selling or possessing someone else’s credit card or credit card information (Penal Code 484e PC).
- Credit Card Forgery – Altering a credit card or signing another person’s name on a credit card transaction without their consent (484f PC).
- Fraudulent Use of a Credit Card – Knowingly using a stolen, fake or expired card to obtain goods (484g PC).
- Credit Card Fraud By Retailer – When a retailer knowingly accepts payment via a stolen, fake or expired card or produces a fraudulent transaction for the purposes of receiving payment from someone (484h PC).
- Counterfeiting Credit Cards – Manufacturing, possessing or possessing the equipment to make counterfeit credit cards (484i PC).
- Publishing Credit Card Information – Knowingly publishing PIN numbers, passwords or other private information with the intent of defrauding a person or business (484j PC).
Penalties for credit card fraud
The penalties for credit card fraud will depend on your specific charges.
- Stolen Credit Cards – Is charged as grand theft. It is a “wobbler,” meaning that it can be punished either as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. The maximum penalty is three years in county jail.
- Credit Card Forgery – Is charged as forgery. It is also a “wobbler,” pushable by a year in county jail as a misdemeanor and three years as a felony.
- Fraudulent Use of a Credit Card – Is either grand theft or petty theft. It will typically be charged as grand theft in situations where the victim’s loss was $950 or greater. Penalties here are one year as petty theft and three as grand theft.
- Credit Card Fraud By Retailer – Is either grand theft or petty theft. It will typically be charged as grand theft in situations where the victim’s loss was $950 or greater. Penalties here are one year as petty theft and three as grand theft.
- Counterfeiting Credit Cards – Is a wobbler with a maximum of three years in county jail as a felony.
- Publishing Credit Card Information – Is a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence here is six months in county jail.
If you are convicted of felony credit card fraud, you could also see a reduction of your rights after you are released. That includes loss of professional licensure, loss of gun rights, loss of voting rights and immigration consequences.
Defenses against credit card fraud charges
“Mr. Helfend absolutely saved my bacon. After finding myself charged with fraud, I was terrified. I have never been introduced to the legal system from this side before, and it was unsettling. However, Robert was able to calm me down and help me figure out my situation. He even got the case dropped before trial! I don’t want to be in another situation where I need a criminal defense lawyer, but if I ever am, I know who I will call!”Pete, CA
No matter what your specific charges are, a prosecutor must show that you knowingly participated in a fraud scheme in order to convict you. That is where most of these cases fall apart. A jury cannot cannot convict you of credit card fraud if you were duped or otherwise did not consent to participating.
There are numerous other defenses against credit card fraud charges, and your attorney can review the evidence in your case and work to build the best defense for you. Nobody wants to lose a year to three years of their lives, and a skilled criminal defense attorney can use their skills to preserve your rights and your freedom.
Robert M. Helfend is a veteran defense attorney, practicing in the Ventura and Los Angeles areas since 1984. In that time, he has secured favorable judgments for thousands of clients. He is listed in the prestigious SuperLawyers, National Trial Lawyers Top 100 and Lead Counsel lists. Call today for your free case evaluation – 805-273-5611.