California’s credit card fraud laws encompass a wide range of unlawful activities, including stealing a credit card, counterfeiting cards, and using someone else’s card unlawfully. These laws govern the fraudulent use of someone else’s credit cards and the fraudulent use of the information related to a credit or debit card account.
All of California’s credit card fraud laws require “fraudulent intent,” i.e. the intent to deceive another person (or entity) in order to obtain a profit or gain for yourself and cause another party to suffer a loss.
Here’s a quick look at the different types of credit card fraud addressed by California statutes:
Stealing a credit card (Penal Code 484e)
Selling, transferring, or acquiring a credit or debit card (or the account information associated with it) without the consent of the cardholder is illegal under Penal Code 484e. This particular offense does not require you to actually use the card or spend any money; rather, the possession of someone else’s credit card or information is enough. In fact, you can be charged of stealing a credit card even if the card is expired, no longer valid, revoked, or has been cancelled. As long as the card was initially issued to another person, someone else possessing it is punishable under this law. As a misdemeanor, conviction could lead to up to one year in county jail and fines up to $1,000. As a felony, conviction could lead to 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail, fines of up to $10,000, and/or probation.
Forging credit card information (Penal Code 484f)
Knowingly altering, creating, or using a credit card for your own benefit is illegal under Penal Code 484f. This includes altering a credit card, creating a fake credit card, or using someone else’s name/signature during a credit card transaction without his or her consent. As a misdemeanor, conviction could lead to up to one year in county jail and fines up to $1,000. As a felony, conviction could lead to 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail, fines of up to $10,000, and/or probation.
Fraudulent use of a card or account information (Penal Code 484g)
Knowingly using a stolen, altered, counterfeit, forged, expired, or revoked credit card to obtain goods, services, money, or anything else of value is illegal under Penal Code 484g. Punishment for fraudulent use of a card or account information depends on the value of items received. If the value exceeds $950 in a six-month time period, it is punishable as grand theft. If the value is $950 or less, it is punishable as petty theft.
Publishing credit card information (Penal Code 484j)
Publishing any information about a personal identification number, computer password, bank account information, or other information about a credit or debit card account with the intent to defraud another party is illegal under Penal Code 484j. “Publishing” this information can mean communicating it in any way, including orally, writing it down, or sending it electronically. This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.