Criminal Card Fraud Laws in California - Penal Code 484e – 484j
Credit card fraud is a general term for theft and fraud committed using a credit card or another similar payment method for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining funds or goods.
Forms of credit card fraud include counterfeiting credit cards, using credit cards that are stolen or lost and fraudulently obtaining credit cards through the mail. It also refers to account access, account numbers and PIN numbers as well as any equipment designed or utilized to carry out the fraud.
Depending on the seriousness of the allegations, if you are being investigated for credit card fraud you are likely to be investigated by both state and federal authorities, which can include the Secret Service. State and federal prosecutors will be uncompromising in the investigation of credit card fraud.
California has numerous Penal Code Sections that criminalize different types of credit card fraud, including 484e, 484f, 484g, 484h, 484i, and 484j.
All statutes make it a crime for anyone to use a credit or debit card to obtain goods or services they are not entitled to receive.
These California statues define crimes related to fraud, stealing, counterfeiting, and altering credit cards:
- Penal Code 484e PC – possession of stolen credit cards,
- Penal Code 484f PC – forging credit cards,
- Penal Code 484g PC – fraudulently using a credit card,
- Penal Code 484h PC – retailer credit card fraud,
- Penal Code 484i PC – counterfeit credit cards,
- Penal Code 484j PC – publishing information from credit cards.
In order to give readers a better understanding of the various types of credit card fraud charges, punishments, and potential defenses to each charge, we will break down each statute.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will review some of the most common defenses against California credit card fraud charges.
Stolen Credit Cards – Penal Code 484e PC
Penal Code 484e PC makes it a crime to sell or possess a stolen credit card or the information, such as account or PIN number.
You don't have to actually use the stolen credit to be charged and convicted, rather simple possession of the contraband items is sufficient.
If convicted of misdemeanor possession of stolen credit cards, it's punishable by up to one year in the county jail and a fine up to $1,000.
If convicted of a felony case of 484e, it's punishable by 16 months, 2 or 3 years in jail, and a fine up to $10,000.
Forgery of Credit Card Information – Penal Code 484f PC
Penal Code 484f PC makes it a crime to forge credit card information. In fact, this statute describes different types of illegal conduct, such as:
- alteration of an existing credit card, and
- signing another person's name in an unlawful credit card transaction.
PC 484f forgery of credit card information is also a wobbler that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony forgery charges (Penal Code 470).
If convicted, the penalties are the same as above, including jail time, fines, and victim restitution.
Fraudulently Using Credit Card Information – Penal Code 484g PC
Penal Code 484g PC makes it a crime to fraudulently use a credit card or the account. This statute targets individuals who unlawfully and knowingly uses a credit card that is expired, stolen, altered. forged, or counterfeit.
Anyone violates PC 484g PC when they unlawfully use a credit card in an attempt to complete a transaction for an item of value.
Again, it's not required that the business or institution suffer a financial loss to be charged and convicted.
PC 484g is charged by the prosecutor as either a California petty theft or grand theft:
- a misdemeanor petty theft crime will be charged if the value of the items were $950 or less that is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
- a felony crime of grand theft will be charged If the value of the items is more than $950 that is punishable by up to 3 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Retailer Credit Card Fraud – Penal Code 484h PC
Penal Code 484h PC defines a retail business that engage in credit card fraud. This type of fraud normally occurs when a retailer knowingly charges someone's credit card for good or services they didn't provide.
It can also occur when a retailer accepts payment from a credit or debit card they know is stolen or fraudulent.
Retailer credit card fraud is charged by the prosecutor as either a petty theft or grand theft depending on the total value of the items.
As stated above, $950 or less is charges as a misdemeanor crime and more than $950 is a felony grand theft crime punishable by up to 3 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Counterfeiting Credit Cards – Penal Code 484i PC
Penal Code 484i PC defines the crime of counterfeiting of credit or debit cards. This statute includes manufacturing, possession, or credit card making devices.
Again, a prosecutor is not required to prove an actual loss occurred to charges and convict someone, rather just the intent to cause a loss is sufficient.
Further, just the possession of counterfeit cards or equipment is enough for a conviction.
PC 484i is also a “wobbler” that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense with the same penalties above.
Publishing Credit Card Information – Penal Code 484j PC
Penal Code 484j PC defines the crime of publishing of stolen credit card information which typically occurs over the internet, but also by other means.
The stolen credit card information includes publishing the PIN numbers, account numbers, and passwords.
PC 484j is a misdemeanor offense in California punishable by up to one year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine.
Review of Credit Card Fraud Penalties in California
Most credit card fraud charges can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony crime, commonly known as a “wobbler.”
Recall the prosecutor is not required to prove an actual loss. The decision on how to file a PC 484 case depends on the following:
- a felony will be filed if the loss if greater than $950;
- PC 484j publishing of credit card information is always a misdemeanor;
- a misdemeanor credit card fraud conviction is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine up $1,000 fine;
- a felony credit card conviction is punishable by 16 months, 2 or 3 years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.
Factors are used by the prosecutor
The two main factors used by a prosecutor for deciding how to file a credit card fraud case as either a misdemeanor or felony case are the intended or actual loss amount to the victim, and defendant's criminal record.
Related California Offenses for Credit Card Fraud
Penal Code 484 PC – petty theft,
Penal Code 487 PC – grand theft,
Penal Code 470 PC – forgery,
Penal Code 530.5 PC – identity theft,
Penal Code 502 PC – unauthorized computer access,
Penal Code 368 PC – elder abuse,
Penal Code 182 PC – conspiracy.
Legal Defenses for Credit Card Fraud Charges
If you were arrested and charged with credit card fraud, our criminal defense lawyers can use a range of strategies for best possible outcome on the case, such as:
- no fraudulent intent,
- false accusation,
- lack of evidence,
- illegal search and seizure.
The crucial element of the crime in a credit card fraud case is intent. If a prosecutor can't prove you had criminal intent, then you have a good chance at avoiding a conviction.
Lack of criminal intent
Fraudulent intent means to purposely intend to deceive a victim by making them depend on your false statement to deprive them of money or property.
Our lawyers might be able to create reasonable doubt with arguments that your conduct lacked the crucial elements of fraudulent intent.
Perhaps you made a good-faith mistake and never had criminal intent to defraud the victim.
Negotiating with the prosecutor for reduced charges or even getting the case dismissed might be possible. Further, we may be able to persuade the prosecutor from filing formal charges through prefiling intervention.
If you are under investigation or already arrested and charged with credit or debit card fraud under the various California Penal Codes listed above, contact our highly experienced team of criminal defense lawyers for consultation.
Cron, Israels & Stark is located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025.
We also have an office at 401 Wilshire Blvd #1200, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Contact our office for a free case evaluation at (424) 372-3112.