Having a credit or debit card stolen is almost a constant fear nowadays. Every time we hand our card over to a waiter or use it online, we worry the information will be copied, stolen, and used by someone else. If someone gets ahold of one of your cards or takes out a new card with your personal information, they can wrack up thousands of dollars of charges in your name. They benefit from the goods they’ve obtained by harming you with considerable debt and poor credit. Credit and debit card fraud charges cover numerous activities, including those described above. However, being charged with card-related fraud can also be a misunderstanding or innocent mistake. If you were charged with credit or debit card fraud, you need a skilled San Diego fraud defense attorney. By working with a skilled criminal defense lawyer, you’ll have someone who understands the law and how to defend you in court.
Credit and Debit Card Fraud
California law prohibits any use of access cards, which can be debit and credit cards, or the information related to the card’s account for fraudulent activity. Fraudulent activity includes any action or statement by one individual that is intended to deceive another person, in order to benefit the individual to the detriment of the other person.
There are multiple California statutes that deal with credit and debit card fraud, including California Penal Code §484e – §484j. The provisions cover acts such as:
- Stealing a credit card
- Forging credit card information
- Creating counterfeit credit cards
- Publishing credit card information
- Selling credit card information
- Purchasing credit card information
Access card crimes are based on an individual having the information without consent and intending to use it. They are not based on that information actually being used. Someone can be charged and convicted of credit or debit card fraud before they were able to purchase anything.
Examples of Debit Card and Credit Card Fraud
Access card fraud comes about in many ways, including but not limited to:
- An individual takes a woman’s debit card out of her purse when she isn’t looking and uses it to buy food.
- A friend from school gives a girl a credit card with an unfamiliar name on it. The girl knows it was stolen but uses it to buy video games anyway.
- A cashier copies a customer’s debit card information while the customer is busy filling out paperwork and later uses the information to buy expensive electronics online.
- A college student takes his roommate’s credit card without permission intending to use it for books next semester.
- An experienced computer programmer hacks into a business’s website, takes all of the customer’s credit card information, and then anonymously sells the card numbers online.
- An individual who previously worked for a card manufacturer stole the materials necessary to create new cards when he quit.
Because credit and debit card fraud are covered by multiple statutes, and how they are charged depends on the facts of the situation and the prosecutor’s discretion. In some situations, using someone else’s debit or credit card can be considered petty or grand theft. In other instances, it may be charged as forgery.
Penalties for Credit & Debit Card Fraud
Under many of the relevant statutes, credit or debit card fraud can be either a misdemeanor or felony. The specific statute related to the charge will spell out the potential sentence. A petty theft may require up to six months in prison and up to a $1,000 fine, but grand theft or forgery, as a felony, can require up to 3 years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
A Federal Crime
Like many fraud charges, an individual can be charged in federal court as well as state court. U.S. Code Title 18 §1029 covers numerous access card-related crimes including but not limited to using or trafficking a counterfeit device, using or possessing device-making equipment, and using unauthorized access devices to obtain at least $1,000 worth of goods and services within one year.
The penalties associated with any portion of the federal statute are harsher than those resulting from a state conviction. Depending on the specific offense, an individual can be looking at 10, 15, or 20 years in prison and fines.
Contact a San Diego Fraud Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a form of credit or debit card fraud, you need an experienced California criminal defense lawyer. You want someone by your side who understands California and federal law, and who will work to reduce the charges to ensure the minimum penalty. Contact Jessica McElfresh at (858) 756-7107 to learn more about the charges brought against you and how she can help.