There are various penal code sections designed to define and punish the offenses that comprise credit card and debit card fraud. Section 484e through 484i address these crimes, which consist of stealing, counterfeiting, altering and forging of cards.
It is unlawful to simply possess a stolen credit card or its information. You need not have even used the card or its information since possession evinces the requisite intent to commit fraud.
If the card was once validly issued, then your unlawful possession of it is all that is necessary.
Selling Stolen Credit Cards
This section also includes selling a stolen card or transferring its information to someone else without the card owner’s consent.
It is irrelevant to the commission of the offense if the card is now invalidated since this often occurs quickly once the card owner is alerted that their card or its information is being used illegally.
Is Penal Code 484(e) a Misdemenor or Felony?
PC 484e is a “wobbler ”offense so that it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on your criminal record and the facts of the underlying case.
Penalties For Penal Code 484(e)
- Up to one year in county jail
- A fine of no more than $1,000
- Probation and any time up to one year in county jail
- Or county prison time of 16 months, 2 or 3 years
- And/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Felony charges are likely if you used the card or its information and acquired goods or property worth more than $950, which is grand theft. If you have previous convictions for credit card fraud or some other charge involving fraud, forgery or counterfeiting, or a violent felony, then felony charges under this section is likely regardless of the value of the items illegally obtained.
It is unlawful to alter a genuine credit card or to create or counterfeit a credit card or sign someone else’s name on a credit card without that person’s consent.
Misdemeanors are punished with county jail time up to one year and a fine up to $1,0002.
If charged as a felony, you face 16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail and/or a fine up to $10,000 along with restitution to the victim. It is considered identity theft if you steal someone’s credit card information under PC 530.5 and possibly federal charges may apply as well under Title 18 USC 1028.
Retailers do commit fraud if they transfer funds, property, services or goods with the knowledge that the credit card used is fake, altered, forged, stolen or otherwise invalid. They may also commit fraud when they present to a credit card evidence of a transaction for goods or services that were never delivered.
You violate California Penal Code 484i if you:
- Possess an incomplete credit card with the intent to complete it without the consent of card issuer.
- Alter or modify the credit card in any way such as changing the magnetic stripe that contains identifying information.
- Make, possess or traffic in equipment used to create credit cards or incomplete cards. If selling the equipment, you must have the knowledge the buyer intends to create counterfeit credit cards4.
Penalties for Possession of Incomplete Credit Card-Misdemeanor
- Up to 6 months in county jail
- Fine up to $1,000 ((California Penal Code 484i PC))
Penalties For Altering Credit Card or Information-Wobbler
If you change the card in some way or alter the card then the crime becomes forgery under penal code 470.
Penalties for Possessing Credit Card Making Equipment-Wobbler
- If misdemeanor-up to 6 months in county jail and fine up to $1,000
- If felony—16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail and/or a fine up to $10,000
Defenses to credit card fraud include:
You Lacked fraudulent Intent
This may arise in cases where you try to use an expired or revoked card without knowledge that it was revoked or you merely forgot to renew it.
You Lacked Prior Notice
A credit card company or bank that issued you the card has an obligation to inform you in writing that the card has been revoked or has expired5.
You Were a Victim of identity theft
Someone stole your card and used it by identifying themselves as you for purposes of fraudulently obtaining goods. This happens frequently in online transactions and is prosecuted under penal code 530.5 pc – California’s identity theft law.
Penal Code 368 Elder Abuse
The state of California can charge you with an additioanl crime under California penal code 368 pc – elder abuse if you were the caretaker of a person over the age of 65 and stole, sold or fraudelently used a credit or debit card6.
Penal Code 459 Burglary
If you enter a store with a knowingly stolen credit or debit card and use the card inside the store you can be charged with California’s burglary law – penal code 459 pc as well as the relevant penal code 484 crime7.
Penal Code 182 – Conspiracy
If you worked in tandem with other people or persons and made an agreement with them to commit credit card or debit card fraud then you violated California’s conspiracy law – penal code 182 pc and can be charged in conjunction with any other credit card fraud crime8.
Record Expungement For Credit Or Debit Card Fraud
You may be able to expunge your conviction under penal code 484 provided you completed all your requirements and did not serve any time in state prison.
Take Our Expungment Eligibility Test
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- CALCRIM 1900 – A defendant who forges the name of another on a credit card sales slip may be charged under either Penal Code section 470 or section 484f, or both. (People v. Cobb (1971) 15 Cal.App.3d 1, 4.) However, the defendant may not be convicted and sentenced on both charges for the same conduct. (Pen. Code, § 654; see also CALCRIM No. 3516, Multiple Counts: Alternative Charges for One Event—Dual [↩]
- California Penal Code 484f PC [↩]
- Californai Penal Code 484(g) pc -Every person who, with the intent to defraud, (a) uses, for the purpose of obtaining money, goods, services, or anything else of value, an access card or access card account information that has been altered, obtained, or retained in violation of Section 484e or 484f, or an access card which he or she knows is forged, expired, or revoked, or (b) obtains money, goods, services, or anything else of value by representing without the consent of the cardholder that he or she is the holder of an access card and the card has not in fact been issued, is guilty of theft. If the value of all money, goods, services, and other things of value obtained in violation of this section exceeds nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) in any consecutive six-month period, then the same shall constitute grand theft. [↩]
- California Penal Code 484i PC [↩]
- People v. Whight (1995) 36 Cal.App.4th 1143. [↩]
- California Penal Code 368 [↩]
- California Penal Code 459 [↩]
- California Penal Code 182 [↩]
- Our California credit card fraud defense attorney’s practice law in the following jurisdictions. Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, Southern California, Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, Hollywood, Glendale, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Studio City, Burbank, Van Nuys, Chatsworth, San Fernando, Santa Clarita, Valencia, Palmdale, Lancaster, Pasadena, Alhambra, Malibu, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Orange County, San Bernadino County [↩]