Credit Card Fraud in San Diego
Credit card fraud includes a broad category of offenses ranging from fraudulently acquiring a credit card to using a forged or expired credit card. California law not only prohibits the improper use of credit cards, but also of all access cards, such as those used to access bank funds. Collectively, credit and debit cards are also known as access cards. Specifically, California Penal Code identifies the following categories of credit card offenses:
- Fraudulent acquisition, use or transfer of access cards.
- Counterfeiting cards.
- Using forged, expired, or revoked credit cards.
- Retailers violating access cards.
- Possession of an incomplete access card or card-making machinery.
- Publishing an access card number with the intention to defraud.
- Obtaining telephone access by improper charges to a card.
Illegal Possession and Sale of Credit Cards
Penal Code §484e prohibits four types of credit card fraud:
- Every person who, with the intent to defraud, sells, transfers, or conveys an access card without the cardholder’s or issuer’s consent.
- Every person who, with the intent to defraud, acquires possession of four or more credit cards within a 12-month period, and those cards are issued in the names of four or more persons.
- Every person who acquires or retains possession of an access card, without the cardholder’s consent, if acquiring it with the intention to use it fraudulently.
- Acquiring credit card account information, without the cardholder’s or issuer’s consent and with the intent to use it fraudulently.
It is important to note that if the statute is intended to preclude prosecution of credit card fraud under general statutes. Nonetheless, the fraudulent possession or use of a credit card may constitute multiple crimes. For example, the two offenses of receiving stolen property and possessing credit cards to be used fraudulently are not the same offense and the defendant could be looking at two consecutive sentences, if they are not appropriated represented by experience counsel.
Forged Credit Cards
It is a felony to make, alter, or emboss a counterfeit access card with the intent to defraud. Moreover, it is credit card forgery to sign another person’s name or a fictitous name to an access card or credit card purchase slip if one with a fraudulent intention. A person charged with forging a name to a credit card sales slip may be properly charged with a felony under California Penal Code section 484(f), even if the value of the goods would ordinarily only amount to a misdemeanor under California Penal Code section 484(g).
Unauthorized Use of Credit Card
It is theft to use someone else’s credit card without authorization. Penal Code section 484(g) prohibits the use of access cards or access card account information that was obtained fraudulently or forged for the purpose of obtaining money, goods, services, or anything else of value. The defendant must have the intent to defraud to be guilty of this.
If the value of the items obtained in a six-month period is less than the crime is a misdemeanor, but if it is more then the crime will be grand theft.
Penal Code section 484(g) is also violated when a defendant falsely represents that he/she is the holder of a card knowing that the card is not issued. This offense is considered committed when a defendant uses someone else’s credit card with an intent to defraud. And it is critical to note that it is not an adequate defense that the defendant’s intention to defraud was found out prior to any physical possession of the goods illegally purchased with someone else’s card. And it is also no defense that the defendant did not steal the access card or that it was not stolen in California. It is sufficient if the defendant knowingly has wrongful possession and used the card of the purposes indicated in the statute.
It is a violation of Penal Code section 484(g) to seek to withdraw money with an ATM card the defendant knows has been revoked. However, it is not a violation to use an ATM card, even if the defendant know his or her account is overdrawn, if there has not been notice that the ATM card has been revoked. Prosecution of unlawful use of automated teller under Penal Code section 484(g) does not preclude prosecution under the general burglary statute of Penal Code section 459.
Because a defendant cannot be charged for theft and receipt of the same property, a defendant cannot be convicted of unauthorized use of a credit card and receiving the property obtained through that unauthorized use.
Credit Card Fraud By Retailers
Penal Code section 484(h) prohibits retailers from furnishing money, goods, or services to anyone they know are using counterfeit, forged, or expired or revoked credit cards. It’s also prohibited for retailers to present credit card invoices for payments when they know that the retailer did not provide the good/service the credit card is being charged for.
Penalties for Credit Card Fraud
As you can see, there are so many different ways to violate California's access credit card laws; there are a variety of punishments that coincide with each. Generally speaking, most instances of credit card fraud are punished as forgery or as a California theft offense. And if the crime is punished as theft, it is usually the amount of the fraud that dictates whether the punishment will be that of grand theft or petty theft, though some credit card fraud violations automatically qualify as one or the other. The grand or petty theft will also determine whether or not the charge will be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. Moreover, where two or more charges could be filed in connection with the same underlying activity, you may only be convicted and sentenced on one charge.
This is a very technical crime, and so the best advice is to find a skilled local criminal defense attorney to guide you through the processes. The basic plan is attack each element of the crime of credit card fraud, for the prosecution must prove ALL of them “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But you can also attack a major theme or component to the prosecution’s argument.
Some common legal defenses to California credit card fraud include:
- You didn't intend to commit a fraud.
- There is insufficient evidence to convict you of the offense.
- You are the victim of mistaken identity.
If you are charged with any type of credit card fraud, especially if you are facing a felony charge, the best thing you could do is find a skilled criminal defense attorney. Particularly, you should find a local criminal defense attorney who knows the local San Diego judicial system. Local criminal defense attorneys know how local judges and local prosecutors work, and can use that knowledge to better represent you. While the charge may sound easy to resolve, the reality is that they are quite complicated, especially when it comes time to adequately represent your case before a judge or jury. To make sure you get the best legal scenario possible, you should talk to a skilled criminal defense attorney. Call the Monder Law Group today for more information.