Credit Card/Fraud & Identity Theft Attorneys in Bakersfield, California
Incidents of fraud and identity theft are increasing across the country. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission reported that consumers lost over $5.8 billion to fraud. This means more and more people are finding themselves facing criminal charges for such actions.
If you’ve recently been arrested for credit card fraud or identity theft, you need to speak with a criminal defense attorney to learn about your options. Reach out to us at Underwood Law Firm in Bakersfield, California for help with this or any of your criminal defense needs. We’re proud to serve clients throughout Kern County, including Lamont.
Credit Card Fraud Charges in California
A credit or debit card fraud charge is defined as using someone else’s credit account without their consent to purchase goods or services. Because so much of our banking is done digitally these days, this is often done as a “card not present” crime, meaning the individual’s credit card information was stolen and then used to make a purchase over the phone or online. This information can be obtained via an ATM skimmer, through a phishing website, or anywhere where a consumer would unwittingly enter their credit card info into an illegitimate site.
In other instances when the stolen credit card or debit card was physically taken (a “card present” offense), it can be used to make purchases anywhere—in person or digitally. This could also include any charges where the perpetrator sought to order a new card in someone else’s name or request an address change on an existing card so they could use it for their own gain.
Identity Theft Charges in California
Similar in practice to stealing someone’s credit card information is stealing their identity. Under California law, identity theft can include illegally obtaining someone else’s Social Security number, driver’s license number, medical ID, tax ID, or school ID. With this, the perpetrator can then present themselves as another person and use this personal information to open new lines of credit, obtain medical coverage, or purchase items. Fraud charges like this also pertain to selling or giving away such illegally obtained information to someone else knowing the receiving party will use it to commit fraud.
Because the penalties for credit card fraud can be so damaging, it’s essential that anyone facing these charges understands exactly what the prosecution needs in order to secure a conviction. Specifically, they’ll need to prove that you not only stole the information but that you intended to use it illegally. Importantly, you can still be found guilty for just having the card with the intent to use it, even if you never officially used it.
Intent is difficult to prove in the courtroom which is why you need an experienced attorney working for you every step of the way. It will be up to the prosecution to show intent and your defense team will work to discredit their argument. For example, maybe you thought you had obtained the personal information of someone else with their consent and weren’t planning to use it illegally. There are many legitimate cases—specifically surrounding family, friends, or work associates—where this kind of information is freely shared.
Another defense option could be that you were falsely accused of fraud, or that law enforcement illegally obtained evidence from you and violated your civil rights.
The extent of possible penalties is highly dependent on the scope of the crime committed and whether your arrest is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. If you’re facing a misdemeanor charge, you could be looking at fines of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.
On the other hand, a felony charge can bring with it fines of up to $10,000 and three years in jail. There are also several mitigating factors that can affect this. The first is about how many incidents of fraud you’re being charged with. For example, if you stole the identity and credit card information from ten different people, the listed penalties can apply to each separate case.
Additionally, if the fraud involved crossing state lines or was committed against a government agent or agency, you could also be charged with a federal offense instead of a state offense which can dramatically increase the amount of time you could spend in jail.