Charges of credit card fraud apply to more than just the theft of a physical card. From hacking into store databases to copying a number during a transaction, the category of crimes that are considered credit card fraud can include a wide array of circumstances. If you have been charged with credit card fraud, you could benefit from our criminal defense services at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney. We will help you navigate the legal process and create a strong defense for your case.
What is Credit Card Fraud?
Credit card fraud happens when a person tries to steal or steals another person's credit card or credit card information, such as the expiration date, number, or security code. They then use the stolen card or details to make a purchase.
Credit card fraud encompasses not only the use of credit cards, but also all access cards, such as ATM cards, debit cards, account numbers connected with credit accounts, and other methods of gaining access to accounts in order to obtain anything of value, such as goods, money, or services.
In California, credit card fraud is defined more broadly. It can involve someone who uses their credit card to mislead creditors by making transactions with the card but not paying down the debt. Furthermore, a person who has access to an expired card but continues to use it despite knowing it is expired might be prosecuted with theft.
What are the Types of Credit Card Fraud?
Credit card fraud can happen in any of the following ways:
Takeover of Account
A person may utilize personal information such as a person's home address, mother's maiden name, and other details to commit fraud. The credit card provider or a bank is then notified that the card is missing. They may also pretend that your address has changed so that they can send you a new card. Several issuers, on the other hand, have a system in place that requires you to supply a vocal password in order to prevent such fraud.
The Use of a Lost Credit Card
It's not uncommon to misplace your credit cards. However, there is a risk that someone who discovers it will wish to utilize it. This is why you should always report a missing card to the card issuer to minimize the possibility of you being harmed.
What is the Difference Between Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud?
It's not unusual for people to confuse credit card fraud and identity theft. There are a few distinctions between the two that must be understood. To begin with, identity theft can be considered more complete. This is because it is not just one piece of your identity that has been gone. Your credit card number, home address, and social security number could all be taken by these identity thieves.
When they get their hands on this information, they'll start utility accounts and file tax reports. A credit card can be obtained in one of two ways. The first is through new account fraud, and the second is through existing account fraud. The fraudster would simply apply for credit with your information for the new account. Existing account fraud refers to a circumstance in which thieves acquire access to your credit card data.
In either case, the scammer is likely to rack up a significant amount of debt before you discover it. You can take precautions to avoid this from happening. You can, for example, set up alerts and sign up for credit card monitoring services.
How Issuers of Credit Cards Investigate Fraudulent Charges
Credit card merchants and corporations take numerous precautions to avoid credit card fraud, and they will investigate any instances of fraud that occur. In most cases, if you report the card stolen or contest unauthorized transactions as soon as possible, you will not be held liable for any unauthorized charges.
When you report an unauthorized transaction, your credit card provider will work with you to confirm that it is an instance of credit card fraud rather than a simple error. A vendor overcharging you for a purchase or failing to deliver goods, for example, is not necessarily credit card fraud. You might be able to seek a refund by filing a chargeback, but you wouldn't do it through your card issuer's fraud channels.
Your credit card provider may deactivate your card, send you a replacement, and initiate a fraud inquiry after a suspected fraudulent transaction is detected. It's also possible that the money will be refunded to your account. You are not accountable for disputed amounts throughout the inquiry, even if it does not give a refund right away.
An investigation into credit card fraud can take up to 90 days, during which time the credit card issuer may contact the shop that charged your card for more information. If copies of a police report or receipts are available, the card issuer may request them to compare signatures. Card issuers and merchants can also be on the lookout for "friendly fraud," which occurs when a cardholder makes a purchase and then disputes it as fraudulent, despite the fact that it was not.
Defenses Against Credit Card Fraud Charges
The defendant must deliberately commit the fraudulent activity with the purpose of deception in order to be found guilty of credit card fraud. If they use the same bank and the cards appear identical, demonstrating that the defendant mistakenly used someone else's credit card can be as straightforward as proving that the defendant used someone else's credit card.
There are other reporting obligations for card issuers; using a canceled credit card if the bank has not received written information that it has been revoked may not be considered credit card fraud. There is no way to prove that the defendant deliberately used an expired card in this case.
Insufficient evidence can also be used to defend against claims of fraud. Lack of evidence refers to the lack of sufficient evidence to establish that the defendant was the person responsible for the fraudulent conduct. It could also mean there isn't enough evidence to prove the defendant's activities amounted to fraud under the statute's definition.
Another possible defense to credit card fraud allegations is entrapment. When law enforcement forces an innocent person to commit a crime they would not have committed otherwise, it is known as coercion. Entrapment can be difficult to prove in court because just being offered the chance to commit a crime does not constitute entrapment. Furthermore, the prosecution will almost certainly counter this defense by citing a reason why the defendant intends to commit the offense nonetheless.
What the Prosecutor Needs to Prove
Lack of Intent
In fraud prosecutions, prosecutors may be required to prove intent, but this proof does not have to be 100 percent direct. Instead, prosecutors will attempt to produce sufficient evidence so that the sum of the evidence can be used as proof. That would include persuading the jurors beyond a reasonable doubt in the case of a jury trial.
The complaints can be used as proof if you continue to act in a manner that others have suggested.
Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated a California statute. Prosecutors must show these things through scientific or physical evidence, witness testimony, and the defendant's own words.
After the evidence is provided, does someone have a reasonable doubt that the event occurred, or that the defendant broke the law? It is a fairly stringent test.
Provision of Testimony
The prosecutor will have to present the testimony of the cops who charged the defendant on the spot. He or she will figure out what evidence prompted the officer to charge the defendant, whether they saw the activities firsthand or were charged based on other statements.
Any witness testimony that the prosecutor has will also be required. Witness testimony can be provided by the victim or by any independent witnesses who can confirm the victim's claim or who witnessed the event.
Penalties for Credit Card Fraud in California
It is prohibited in California to willfully use a credit card or its information to trick a person or entity into incurring loss in exchange for an unearned gain. In California, the penalties for credit card fraud vary depending on the circumstances and severity of the crime. A year in county jail and a $1,000 fine are the minimum penalties. It carries a maximum penalty of three years in county jail and a $10,000 fine.
Credit card fraud is a federal crime as well. If you've been suspected of credit card fraud across state lines or fraud against the government, you could face federal charges. The sentence, in this case, might be up to 20 years in prison. The following are the consequences of credit card fraud:
Fraudulent Possession and Transfer of a Credit Card
When you sell, receive, or provide a credit card to someone without the genuine owner's approval. In California, this is charged as grand theft, which is a "wobbler," meaning it can be punished as a misdemeanor or a felony. The misdemeanor involves a maximum punishment of one year in county jail and a fine of $1,000, while the felony brings a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Fraudulent Use of an Account Information or Access Card
Obtaining products, money, or services of value with a debit or credit card that has been tampered with, forged, stolen, expired, revoked, or counterfeit. The severity of the penalty is determined by the value of the items received. If the sum is less than $950 in a six-month period, it is considered petty theft; however, if it surpasses $950, it is considered grand theft.
Counterfeiting Credit Cards
Any part of a credit card that has been altered, modified, or changed with the intent to deceive. Allowing another individual to modify a card, as well as trading in altered cards, fall under this category. Because this is prosecuted as a forgery in California, it is considered as a "wobbler," which means it can be punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
Forging Credit Card Information
You can be prosecuted with fraud if you change a debit card, make a fake one, or sign another person’s name during a transaction without their permission. Based on your criminal history and the details of the case, it will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. The penalties are the same as for fraudulent possession in this case.
Fraudulent Retail Transaction
This occurs when you execute a purchase for no exchange of products using a stolen, changed, or expired credit card that the shop is aware of. It permits the shop to keep the money from the transaction without having to exchange anything in return in this scenario. It is prosecuted in the same way as fraudulent usage, with damages under $950 prosecuted as petty theft and damages over $950 prosecuted as grand theft.
Publishing Credit Card Information
In California, publishing is widely defined as any written, spoken, or digital communication. It's also prohibited to share any information about credit cards or bank accounts, including debit cards and ATM PINs. This is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 in fines and six months in prison. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be charged with one or more of these.
Criminal Court Process
The court system can appear to be a maze of bureaucracy, and once you're inside, you may have no idea how to navigate it. For someone unfamiliar with the details of laws and court regulations, they can be exceedingly complex and bewildering. A qualified attorney, on the other hand, can explain what to expect in court and outline your choices for mounting a compelling defense to your case. The following is the court process in California:
Unless you were caught in the act of committing a crime, law enforcement agents are likely to have performed an investigation before making an arrest. In order to piece together the events around a probable crime, investigators collect evidence and interview witnesses. The purpose is to figure out if and who committed a crime. The police may detain you after the process.
Arrest and Charges
During an investigation, if authorities discover evidence that they believe indicates your guilt, you may be arrested. When you are arrested, the police may search you. This is known as a search incident to an arrest, and it is one of the few situations when a search warrant is not required.
Police must have probable cause to arrest you, which means they must have a good reason to believe you committed a crime. When something happens, you may be arrested on the scene. An arrest warrant may be served at your home, workplace, or other location if your arrest is the outcome of an inquiry.
After you've been arrested, a prosecutor must determine whether or not to press charges against you. You may be freed on bail or remanded in custody until your arraignment if the prosecution believes there is enough evidence to charge you. You will, however, be released if no charges are filed.
After you've been arrested and charges have been filed, you'll have an arraignment. At an arraignment, the court will read the charges against you, explain your rights, and inform you that if you cannot afford counsel, one will be provided for you.
You will also have the opportunity to enter a plea to the charge at the arraignment. You can, however, request a continuance if you do not yet have a criminal defense lawyer. It is critical that you do not submit your plea until you have had the opportunity to speak with an attorney and understand the implications of the various plea options.
When you enter a plea, you will either say not guilty, which means you deny committing the crime, guilty, which means you agree to commit the crime, or no contest, which means you deny committing the crime but acknowledge that there is enough evidence to convict you. A plea of "no contest" is effectively the same as a guilty plea. When you enter a plea of no contest, the court will find you guilty and sentence you.
Bail may be discussed during your arraignment or during a separate bail hearing. A court may establish a bond, release you on your own recognizance, or deny bail, depending on the facts of your accusation.
If a judge sets a bail amount, you will be held in custody until the bond is paid.
The amount of bail is determined by several variables, including the seriousness of your case, your previous convictions, and whether the court feels you will run. If bail is denied, you will be held in custody while your case is heard in court.
In a criminal case, the pretrial phase is when a lot of work is done. The prosecutor and your defense attorney will trade evidence. Each party will present its own case. During the pretrial phase, each side files motions to address specific legal problems that could affect how the case moves to trial.
The admissibility of evidence is one of the most crucial concerns addressed during the pre-trial phase. If prosecutors want to utilize evidence gathered by a search of you or your property, or through surveillance, your defense attorney may question the legality of the search or surveillance.
If a search or police surveillance violated your rights in any manner, a judge may order that prosecutors are not authorized to utilize evidence gathered from the improper search or surveillance. As a result, the prosecution's case may be weakened, and your charge may be dismissed or reduced. Many criminal cases are resolved without the need for a trial during the pretrial phase.
Each party offers arguments, testimony, and evidence to a jury or judge during a trial. For any criminal violation that is not an infraction, you have the right to a jury trial. You do, however, have the option of forgoing a jury trial, and instead of having a judge decide your innocence or guilt, a process known as a court trial. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Chula Vista can explain the differences between a jury trial and a court trial, as well as which option is best for you.
A prosecution must show your guilt beyond reasonable doubt throughout your trial. If the prosecutor fails to do so, a judge or jury should find the defendant not guilty. If you are proven not guilty, you will be released.
Your sentence is usually handed down separately from your verdict. After a jury reaches a guilty judgment, a judge schedules a sentencing hearing. The prosecutor and your defense counsel make recommendations to the court regarding the appropriate punishment based on the circumstances of your case at a sentencing hearing. To support either side's suggestions, evidence and testimony may be given. After that, a judge will decide on your sentencing.
You have the right to appeal a conviction if you are found guilty of a crime. There must, however, be grounds for the appeal. The most common grounds for an appeal include defects in the court procedure, such as insufficient evidence to support the decision and mistakes of law committed during the process that influenced the outcome.
A legal error could be anything as simple as a court permitting evidence to be used that was obtained through an illegal search. If a mistake was committed in the trial, an appellate court might overturn the verdict or retry your case. It's crucial to remember, however, that an appellate court cannot re-determine the facts of your case.
Contact a Fraud Crimes Defense Attorney Near Me
Fraudulent use of a credit card can result in serious penalties and affect your personal life. If you have been charged with credit card fraud, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. We at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney are some of the best fraud crimes defense attorneys in Chula Vista. Call us today at 619-877-6894 for more information about how we can help you.