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Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud is among the multiple forms of theft crimes recognized in California, and you may face criminal penalties if found guilty. After arrest, you need to conduct thorough research and determine the type of credit card fraud you face, as well as the possible impact it may have.

Further, consider working with a criminal attorney to help you prepare a defense for the accusations you face. With their assistance, you are better equipped to handle the matter at hand, and you have a higher chance of a favorable outcome. A reliable attorney should also be ready to represent you through trial, so you can worry less about undertaking the court processes by yourself.

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The Nature of Credit Card Fraud

Fraud crimes often fall under the general category of theft crimes, warranting penalties under petty or grand theft sentences. The essence of charging credit card fraud as a theft offense is that it involves the intention to permanently deprive someone of their property by taking it away.

Additionally, credit card fraud falls under the general fraud crime scope, making it important to determine what general fraud entails. Based on penal code provisions, fraud offenses involve using pretenses to obtain money, property, or access to opportunities and locations unlawfully.

A fraudulent offense involves misrepresenting your reality to the targeted person to trick, deceive, or lure them into agreeing with your requests. As a result, they are at risk of losing their property and running losses, which attracts criminal charges.

Credit card fraud is, therefore, a specific niche of fraud crimes that makes it unlawful to use credit card details to cause losses to the victim. The California Penal Code describes the various forms of credit card fraud under Section 484(e) to (i). It is important to understand each provision and establish its applicability to your case.

Types of Credit Card Fraud

After arrest, the prosecutor assesses the police reports forwarded from the investigation officer team to establish the most suitable charge to enter. They do this by assessing the type of credit card fraud you engaged in to ensure they have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

When working with a criminal attorney, they can help you do your assessment beforehand as well as prepare for the upcoming trial. During the research, you may discover the possibility of facing any of the following types of credit card fraud:

  1. Possessing and Transferring a Credit Card Fraudulently

Possession of a credit card by fraudulent means is a criminal offense prohibited under Section 484(e) of the California Penal Code. When facing the charge, the prosecutor must ensure they present all elements of the crime as accurately as possible to secure your conviction.

You can, therefore, expect the prosecution team to demonstrate that you knowingly received and had a credit card that did not belong to you. This element focuses on showing possession, and the prosecutor must show that the credit card was in your possession or within an area of your control. For example, if investigation officers retrieve the credit card from your room or your vehicle, you will still be in possession, as these areas are within your reach and control. Possession may also count if you had the credit card in question on your person, meaning they retrieved it after a body search.

Further, the prosecutor should demonstrate that you did not intend to return the credit card to the rightful owner but rather that you wanted to transfer it. A transfer may involve selling the credit card or giving it to someone else, depending on the circumstances.

Examples of evidential sources to expect during the trial include communication between you and third parties that shows your intention to transfer. These could be in the form of text messages, email correspondences, or recorded phone calls.

Additionally, investigation officers may have tracked expenditures on the card in question. If they can trace a change in location and usage, they can infer that the transfer has worked. You can also expect the prosecutor to present witnesses who may have information on where and how you transferred the credit card illegally.

Lastly, the prosecutor should show that your possession and credit card transfer were without the rightful owner’s consent. Presenting this element is critical to the case because it portrays the fraudulent nature of your actions.

The prosecutor’s main evidence will be the owner’s witness testimony, and they will provide details on how you may have obtained your card illegally. This often occurs by defrauding the rightful card owner or third parties into believing you and giving you access to their card.

Penalties for the Offense

If found guilty of fraudulently possessing and transferring someone’s credit card, you may face misdemeanor or felony penalties. The penal code classifies the offense as a wobbler crime, and the primary determinant for your charge is the amount of money you benefited from fraudulently. Amounts below $950 attract misdemeanor charges, while amounts above $950 attract felony charges.

If charged with a misdemeanor, you risk facing up to one year in county jail or paying a fine of up to $1000. As a felony, you may face up to three years in prison or face a fine of up to $10000.

  1. Forgery of Credit Card Details

Another variation of credit card fraud involves forging details to obtain benefits unlawfully, contrary to Section 484(f) of the Penal Code. Doing so is an offense because you will have presented wrongful information, expecting a third party to rely on it to grant you access to money unlawfully.

In court, the prosecutor must highlight the relevant elements of the crime by establishing the type of forgery you engaged in. Doing so is necessary to build on the case, so you can expect the prosecutor to highlight specific actions that you engaged in.

Common forms of the offense include modifying the credit card details to introduce your name or creating false card number records. You may do this in hopes of having a transaction completed, but without the money being debited from your account. As a result, if the transaction is completed from a different account, it may raise questions and draw attention to your case, resulting in an arrest.

Alternatively, you may commit forgery, a type of credit card fraud, if you use someone’s name and signature as your own to complete a transaction. This occurs when you are aware of the person’s identity and the amount on their credit card, making them an easy target.

During the trial, the prosecutor presents evidence like signed checks, recorded conversations, and surveillance footage that shows your involvement in the crime. For example, they may present checks that the rightful owner has previously signed versus the contested check that you allegedly signed in connection with their credit card.

They may also show the efforts you undertook to present yourself as the rightful cardholder, including changing phone numbers and asking third parties to help you pass off your identity. In presenting all this, the prosecutor must also establish that your actions were intentional and that you lacked the owner’s consent in doing them.

Penalties for Forging Credit Card Details

Forgery of credit card details is a wobbler offense, meaning it attracts either misdemeanor or felony penalties, depending on the nature of your case. Accessing amounts above $950 is more likely to attract felony charges, resulting in a prison sentence of up to three years. Conversely, misdemeanor charges involve amounts below $950 and may result in a six-month jail sentence.

  1. Using Credit Card Information for Fraudulent Purposes

Section 484(g) prohibits credit card fraud by presenting false card details to gain monetary benefits. Multiple case scenarios may attract criminal penalties, and the prosecutor must assess each case based on the facts and merits.

For example, if you use a stolen card and pass it off as yours, you are answerable for an offense under this section, as you have engaged in fraudulent use of a card. Similarly, presenting expired card details to access online services or purchases falls within the elements of this section, and you will be answerable for the charges if the prosecutor takes over your case.

The prosecutor’s evidence must demonstrate your knowledge of the nature of the credit card, meaning it was not yours, or you knowingly presented the wrong details. Since each case presents different facts, the prosecutor often narrows down on the relevant circumstances to ensure they source the necessary supporting evidence. You can, therefore, expect surveillance footage, bank details, and other transaction records linking you to the case.

Penalties for Fraudulent Card Use

The offense is a wobbler crime, with misdemeanors attracting up to one year in county jail or a fine of up to $1000. As a felony, you may face up to three years in prison or face a fine of up to $10000. The judge will apply discretion to determine whether to grant the maximum sentence, depending on whether your case includes aggravating factors.

  1. Publishing Credit Card Details

It is unlawful to publish someone’s credit card details, as it exposes them to potential fraud and losses. Publishing credit card details is a punishable offense under Section 484(j) of the California Penal Code and falls within the misdemeanor category.

During the trial, the prosecutor must establish your responsibility to make someone’s private credit card details public, which translates to publishing. For example, if you posted a photo on a social media platform or sent a message to a third party containing the cards, this amounts to publishing.

You are also responsible for publishing us; you used oral information to convey the card details. The prosecutor will succeed in presenting a case against you, provided they have sufficient evidence, like witness testimonies or audio recordings of you sharing the information.

The penalty for publishing credit card details includes serving a jail sentence of up to six months or paying a fine of up to $1000. The judge exercises discretion in the matter and may vary the sentence based on the effects your actions had on the victim.

Defenses for Committing Credit Card Fraud

After the prosecutor concludes their case, your defense attorney has the opportunity to present a defense argument on your behalf. Based on this, they must prepare in advance and source relevant evidence to strengthen the case and build their credibility.

Examples of possible defenses to present include:

You Had the Consent of the Card Owner to Use It

Many credit card fraud cases involve using a valid credit card without the owner’s consent. Subsequently, the owner reports fraud because they are unaware of their card’s usage, resulting in your arrest and trial.

You can discount the prosecutor’s accusations against you by demonstrating that the owner gave you consent to use their card. In doing so, you will have shown that they knew about your card and that they authorized your usage. The current case would, therefore, be invalidated, warranting the need for an acquittal.

Among the most effective evidentiary sources to present is a written statement from the cardholder indicating that they gave you consent to use their card. Additionally, you can rely on previous conversations you had with them where they allowed you to use the card. By showing the details, you have a better chance of succeeding with the argument.

You Did Not Intend to Defraud

Alternatively, you may argue that you lacked the intention to defraud the cardholder or third parties involved in a transaction. You can do this by demonstrating that you remained in constant communication with involved parties, including when you intended to transact.

Your statements must include evidential sources like phone call logs, email correspondences, or witness testimonies from parties who can confirm that you lacked criminal intentions.

You Were Unaware that the Card was Improper

If your credit card fraud charges involve using an expired or tampered card, you can argue that you did not know of its unusable nature beforehand. While the defense might not absolve you of criminal responsibility entirely, it will help reduce the severity of charges. Nevertheless, you must convince the judge of your genuine lack of knowledge about the nature of the card by presenting compelling evidence.

Raising defenses after the prosecutor’s case is essential because it allows the judge and jury to view the matter from your perspective. In doing so, you may successfully introduce reasonable doubt, reducing your chances of facing penalties. Nevertheless, you must make adequate preparations to avoid presenting contradictory details that could draw negative attention. 

Contact a Criminal Attorney Near Me

Facing credit card charges can result in serious criminal charges, making it important to defend your case thoroughly. To do so, consider working with a skilled and experienced criminal attorney who understands the importance of creating compelling defenses.

At Long Beach Criminal Attorney, you will work with highly skilled and trained criminal defense lawyers, ready to handle your case adequately. Our goal is to provide the necessary support and skills for analyzing your case and representing you in court to raise your chances of a favorable outcome. For more information on how to defend a credit card fraud case in Long Beach, California, call us today at 562-308-7807.