California Penal Code Section 484e, 484f, 484g, 484h, 484i and 484j PC: Credit Card Fraud
1. Definition and Elements of the Crime
Under California Penal Code Sections 484e, 484f, 484g, 484h, 484i and 484j PC, it is unlawful to commit various forms of credit card fraud. These sections also apply to debit cards and other access cards.
The offenses described as "credit card fraud" may include the following crimes:
- California Penal Code Section 484e PC (stolen credit cards) - This crime involves selling, transferring, acquiring or otherwise possessing the credit card or credit card information of another person without that other person's consent.
- California Penal Code Section 484f PC (forging credit card information) - This crime involves altering an existing credit card, counterfeiting a fake card or signing someone else's name in a credit card transaction without that person's consent.
- California Penal Code Section 484g PC (fraudulent use of a credit card or account) - This involves using a stolen, fake, forged, altered, revoked or expired credit card to procure cash or goods while knowing that it is not valid.
- California Penal Code Section 484h PC (credit card fraud by a retailer) - This crime occurs when a retailer either accepts payment via a stolen, expired, revoked or fake credit card that they know is not valid OR presents false evidence of a transaction to receive payment for goods when no such transaction occurred.
- California Penal Code Section 484i PC (counterfeiting credit cards) – This offense involves manufacturing or possessing counterfeit credit cards or possessing the equipment to make or traffic in counterfeit credit cards.
- California Penal Code Section 484j PC (publishing credit card information) - This involves knowingly communicating credit card information, including PIN numbers, passwords or other private account information with the intent to defraud a person or entity.
2. Related Offenses
Other similar or related offenses include:
- Forgery - California Penal Code Section 470 PC
- Petty Theft - California Penal Code Section 484 PC
- Grand Theft - California Penal Code Section 487 PC
- Identity Theft - California Penal Code Section 530 PC
A man is stopped by police during a traffic stop and is arrested on an unrelated warrant. During a search of the man’s wallet, the police find numerous credit cards with various different names. The man could be charged with credit card fraud under California Penal Code Section 484e PC even though he had not used the stolen cards. Simply possessing stolen cards is enough to violate the statute.
A mother gives her credit card to her son and instructs him to use it to make a purchase at a store. When the son goes to make the purchase, the cashier becomes suspicious that a man is trying to use a woman’s credit card and contacts the police. The son would not be criminally liable for credit card fraud because he did not have an intent to defraud and he had the consent of the cardholder when he attempted to use the credit card.
4. Defenses to Credit Card Fraud
As discussed above, someone who does not have intent to defraud or steal would not be guilty of credit card fraud. Thus, someone who inadvertently uses a cancelled or expired credit card to pay for an item would lack the requisite intent to be criminally liable under the credit card fraud statute.
Possession of stolen credit cards under California Penal Code Section 484e PC is a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If convicted as a felony, the defendant can be sentenced to up to three years in prison. If the defendant only possessed stolen cards but did not actually use them, the offense is considered a petty theft misdemeanor that is punishable by six months in jail.
Forging credit card information under California Penal Code Section 484f PC is a forgery offense that is a “wobbler,” punishable by up to three years in prison.
California Penal Code Section 484g PC (fraudulent use of a credit card) and California Penal Code Section 484h PC (credit card fraud by a retailer) are treated like petty theft misdemeanors if the value of funds stolen was $950 or less, and are punishable by six months in jail. If the amount of theft exceeded $950, these offenses are treated like grand theft and are “wobblers” that can be punished by up to three years in prison.
Possessing a blank card with the intent to turn it into a counterfeit card is a misdemeanor under California Penal Code Section 484i PC that is punishable by up to six months in jail. Altering cards or possessing card counterfeiting equipment is a “wobbler” that can result in a three-year prison sentence.
Publishing credit card information under California Penal Code Section 484j PC is a misdemeanor that can carry a six-month jail sentence if convicted.
6. Criminal Defense for Credit Card Fraud
If you or someone you know are under investigation for credit card fraud, it is crucial that you discuss your options with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who previously prosecuted white collar offenses as part of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Major Fraud Unit. Mr. Kraut is highly experienced at defending these types of charges and knows how to effectively fight credit card fraud allegations.
For more information about credit card fraud, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.