Most criminal offenses are complex, and credit card fraud is not an exception. This is one of the most intricate crimes that are often vigorously prosecuted in Riverside, CA. If you are arrested, charged, and convicted of the offense, you may face serious consequences, including fines and jail time. The severity of the penalties you face will depend on the facts of a case and whether your offense is viewed as petty theft, grand theft, or forgery. Usually, a conviction can also cripple your business if it is implicated in the crime. At the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we specialize in defending persons accused of fraud crimes. We can help you prove your innocence or work to have your charges dropped or reduced.

Because of the complex nature of fraud crimes and credit card fraud specifically, it is best to reach out to us when the authorities put you or your business under investigation. We have a team of knowledgeable and experienced lawyers who can provide the much-needed legal counsel. Before confessing to a crime or giving out any information, we urge you first to understand the charges you face as well as the best legal defense options.

Credit Card Fraud Defined

California has a range of statutes that describe and penalize credit card fraud. These statutes include California’s Penal Code Sections 484f, 484g, 484i, 484j, 484h, and 484e. Under these statutes, it a crime to commit fraud using various types of cards, including:

  • Major credit cards, e.g., MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover
  • Department store cards, e.g., Sears and Target cards
  • Gas station cards
  • ATM cards
  • Debit cards
  • Company credit cards
  • Store gift cards

The offenses listed under credit card fraud include:

California PC Section 484j (Publishing Credit Card Information)

Penal Code 484j criminalizes the act of sharing private credit card information with the aim of defrauding an individual or a business. This information includes credit card PINs, account passwords, and other confidential information.

California PC Section 484i (Counterfeiting Credit Cards)

Penal Code 484i makes it an offense or process or manufacture of counterfeit (fake) credit cards. This statute also criminalizes the possession of equipment used in manufacturing or trafficking phony credit cards.

California PC Section 484h (Credit Card Fraud by a Retailer)

It is also a crime for retailers to accept payment of goods or services via revoked, stolen, fake, or expired credit cards. California’s Penal Code Section 484h criminalizes processing transactions using a credit card a retailer knows or should know is invalid.

California PC Section 484g (Fraudulent Use of an Account or a Credit Card)

Under California’s Penal Code Section 484g, it is a criminal offense to knowingly use a fake, stolen, altered, revoked, forged, or expired credit card to obtain money, goods, or services.

California PC Section 484f (Forging/ Falsifying Credit Card Information)

Falsifying or forging credit card information is a crime as listed under California’s Penal Code 484f. Forging is the crime of altering/changing details on an existing credit card. This crime may also involve fabricating a fake card or forging someone else’s signature during a transaction without their consent.

California PC Section 484e (Stolen Credit Cards)

The crime under Penal Code Section 484e is described as the act of transferring, selling, acquiring, or having the credit card or credit card information of someone else without their consent.

What Does Credit Card Fraud Entail?

Any act used to obtain illegal financial gain through credit cards is deemed unlawful in California. Credit card fraud is a broad term, and an offense may involve the following:

Account Takeover

The perpetrators of credit card fraud may use their victim’s personal information to commit an offense. For instance, they could use a victim’s name and impersonate them to obtain a new card from a bank or credit card company. Sometimes, perpetrators even impersonate their victims and claim to have changed addresses. This allows them to have new cards sent to their own addresses.

Credit card fraud is prevalent in California, which banks and credit card companies know too well. As such, most establishments nowadays demand that their applicants use verbal passwords when requesting any changes in their cards. This has been highly beneficial in curbing down account takeover incidents.

Stealing a Credit Card

Pickpockets can obtain their victim’s credit cards by stealing their wallets. They may also unzip your bag, especially around crowded places, and slip out your wallet to get your credit cards.

Intercepting Mailed Cards

Another common means of illegally obtaining the credit card of another person is by intercepting mailed cards. In this case, a fraudster intercepts the mailbox of their victim and either uses the personal information they find or steals newly sent credit cards.

Credit Card-Not-Present Fraud

We live in the digital era. As such, more and more companies, including credit card establishments, have fewer points of service. Thanks to EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) technology, most people use smart payment cards to access automated teller machines and payment terminals.

While such technological advancement is good, it also allows fraudsters to skip the hassle of fabricating a physical credit card to rip off their victims. All a perpetrator requires to commit a mail order or online fraud is their victim’s name and credit card number.

Counterfeit (Fake) Cards

Fraudsters can use skimmer devices to obtain the credit card information of unsuspecting victims. Once this is done, all that is left to do is to create a duplicate card with the exact information to access a victim’s account.

Again, banks and credit card companies are today more aware of the risk of account hacks using counterfeit cards. As such, most establishments use chip-and-pin technology to reduce the risk of such fraud.

Using Misplaced (Lost And Found) Credit Cards

Sometimes, no theft or monkey business is involved in obtaining a victim’s credit card. Fraudsters are also known to focus on credit cards found in lost and found kitties. It is possible to protect yourself from this kind of fraud by reporting immediately you notice that you have misplaced your card. This may reduce the risk of a fraudster taking advantage of your account balance.

Fraudulent Applications

Another common means of committing credit card fraud is through fraudulent applications. In this case, a perpetrator may use the name, date of birth, social security number, and other victim’s personal information to apply for a new card. Ultimately, this gives them illegal access to the account balance.

Other Offenses Related To Credit Card Fraud

There are more than a few actions that fall under the offense of credit card fraud. Generally, these actions allow perpetrators to use another individual’s credit card to pay for goods or services without their consent. You can also be accused of credit card fraud if you use another person’s identity to make purchases, counterfeit their credit card or use a stolen credit card to make purchases.

As aforementioned, perpetrators may use various means to aid them in committing an offense. For instance, a defendant may obtain a victim’s private credit card information by stealing their mail from their mailbox. They could even take a step further and fabricate a fake card using this information or request a new card without a victim’s consent.

Typically, perpetrators of credit card fraud protect themselves by mainly making online purchases. Some, however, don’t shy away from using counterfeit or illegally obtained credit cards in local stores and gas stations.

That said, defendants accused of credit card fraud often face a range of charges depending on their means to commit an offense. The following are offenses a prosecutor may charge along with or in place of credit card fraud:

Identity Theft

Identity theft refers to the use of illegal means to obtain personal information. For a defendant to be convicted of this offense, they must also impersonate another person with the intent to defraud them and illegally possess their property.

Internet Fraud

Internet fraud is a federal crime. It is defined as the act of committing fraud online or over the internet. Some of the offenses identified as internet fraud include:

  • Making fraudulent online purchases
  • Selling equipment used for manufacturing credit cards through an online store
  • Selling goods obtained fraudulently through an e-commerce store

Mail Theft

Mail theft is when a defendant steals mail with the intent to find information that can be used for credit card fraud. This grave offense attracts severe penalties, including jail time for up to one year and a fine not exceeding $1,500.


Another crime closely related to credit card fraud is a conspiracy. This is when a defendant conspires with another individual or multiple people in a manner that allows credit card fraud.

Elements of Credit Card Fraud

California PC 484 describes credit card fraud as the crime of stealing, forging, or altering a credit card or any other access card to obtain money, goods, or services to which you are not legally entitled. Credit card fraud stands as one of the most complex legal offenses, and a crime can fall under various titles, including petty theft or grand theft, depending on the amount of money embezzled.

Naturally, the prosecutors are bound to come at you with full force if you are accused of the crime. Here are some of the means the prosecution can use to gather evidence against a defendant and open a case:

Federal Government Investigators

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S Secret Service are some of the top institutions in America that take credit card fraud prosecution and prevention seriously. These agencies provide invaluable oversight and legal support during local, state, and corporate fraud investigations.

The FTC can transfer a victim’s case to other consumer protection agencies that work closely with law enforcement agencies to bring perpetrators to book. Typically, the FTC kick starts investigations whenever a case involves embezzlement of over $2,000.

Professional Credit Card Fraud Investigators

If a case involves electronic backtracking or online transaction frauds, it is likely to be handled by professional credit card fraud investigators. These are highly trained experts in forensic accounting, information technology, and financial security systems. Once a victim reports a case, these experts can help minimize the damage done to their balance.

Often, prosecutors take their time to gather solid evidence before arresting and charging a defendant. However, a judge cannot convict an accused until the following elements are proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You illegally obtained the credit card control of another individual
  • You had no consent from a credit card owner to possess or use their account
  • You intended to use your victim’s credit card for undeserved financial gain

It remains imperative to understand that you can also face charges for possession of an illegally obtained/stolen credit card. If you didn’t personally steal the card, the prosecutor needs to prove the following elements:

  • You received an unlawfully obtained credit card
  • The credit card in question belonged to someone else, and you didn’t have their consent.
  • You know the credit card was illegally obtained/stolen
  • You intended to use the card, sell it or transfer ownership to another party who isn’t the card’s owner

Moreover, retaining possession of a lost and found credit card can also lead to credit card fraud charges. In this case, the prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • You were in possession of a credit card
  • The credit card in question was misplaced, lost, or delivered to your address.
  • You knew the credit card was misplaced, lost, or mistakenly delivered to your address.
  • You remained in possession of the credit card with the intent to use it, sell it or transfer it to another party who is not its original owner.

Furthermore, you may also face credit card fraud charges if you buy a credit card from an unauthorized agent. In this case, the prosecutor is tasked with proving the following elements:

  • You purchased a credit card from an unauthorized agent
  • You intended to use the credit card to obtain financial gain illegally

Selling credit cards is also an offense if you are not an authorized agent. If you are charged with this offense, here is what the prosecutors must prove:

  • You are not a certified credit card agent
  • You sold a credit card (illegally manufactured, stolen, or otherwise) to another individual.

Prosecutors will not shy away from coming at you, guns blazing with evidence that can prove you illegally gained access to a victim’s card without their consent and with the aim of defrauding them. Irrespective of how bad your situation may seem, a skilled defense attorney can provide invaluable help. The expert can gather evidence that works in your favor. They can also find witness testimony or character witnesses to raise doubt about the prosecutors’ picture of criminal intent.

What Are The Penalties For Credit Card Fraud?

Because of the intensive investigations prosecutors conduct before arresting and charging defendants, it is not always possible to disapprove charges or have them dismissed. However, Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm attorneys can have your charges reduced or use skilled negotiations to obtain the best plea bargain.

If you are convicted of credit card fraud, the punishment that applies may depend on the subsections you are accused of violating.

Here are the possible punishments for different offenses:


When charged as a misdemeanor

  • Jail term of up to 1 year in county jail
  • A fine not exceeding $ 1,000

When charged as a felony

  • Incarceration for 16 months to 3 years in county jail
  • A fine not exceeding $10,000

Grand Theft

When charged as a misdemeanor

  • Up to 1 year prison time in county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000

When charged as a felony

  • Up to 3 years imprisonment in state prison
  • $10,000 maximum fine

Petty Theft

  • Up to 6 months incarceration
  • A fine of up to $1,000

Fraudulent Possession/ Stolen Credit Card (484e PC)

If charged as a misdemeanor

  • Up to 1-year imprisonment in county jail
  • A fine of $1,000

If charged as a felony

  • Imprisonment for up to 3 years
  • A maximum fine of $10,000

Forging/ Falsifying Credit Card Information (484f PC)

If charged as a misdemeanor

  • Up to 1-year imprisonment in county jail
  • A fine of $1,000

If charged as a felony

  • Imprisonment for up to 3 years
  • A maximum fine of $10,000

Fraudulent Use of an Account or a Credit Card (484g PC)

When amount embezzled is under $950

  • Up to 6 months jail term
  • A fine not exceeding $1,000

When the amount stolen exceeds $950

  • Up to 3 years imprisonment in state prison
  • $10,000 maximum fine

Credit Card Fraud by a Retailer (484h PC)

Damages under $950

  • Up to 6 months jail term
  • A fine not exceeding $1,000

Damages above $950

  • Up to 3 years imprisonment in state prison
  • $10,000 maximum fine

Counterfeiting Credit Cards

Damages less than $950

  • Up to 6 months jail term
  • A fine not exceeding $1,000

Damages that exceed $950

  • Up to 3 years imprisonment in state prison
  • $10,000 maximum fine

Publishing Credit Card Information

  • Jail term not exceeding six months
  • A fine of up to $1,000

Sometimes, credit card fraud is charged on the federal level. This is more so when a case occurs on government property, across state lines, or against a government entity. Usually, federal agencies such as the FBI and Federal Trade Commission investigate this case, meaning that the penalty is also higher. If convicted of federal credit card fraud, punishment may include spending up to 20 years behind bars. The fine imposed will depend on the specifics of your case.

Irrespective of the particular credit card fraud offense you are accused of committing, a competent defense attorney can give you your best chances of enjoying a favorable outcome. Typically, the prosecutors seek the harshest judgment, but the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm team can negotiate for lesser sentences. We can help have your charges reduced or dismissed to ensure that a conviction has less impact on your future.

Best Defenses for Credit Card Fraud

Again, you cannot afford to underestimate the need to work with a skilled defense attorney. Your lawyer’s work is to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case and generally ensure that you take full advantage of your right to a fair trial.

Some of the defenses that can have your charges dropped or reduced include:

No Intention to Commit Fraud

One of the critical elements a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that your intentions were not pure. You are only guilty of an offense if you had the intent to commit fraud.

Your lawyer can argue that you had no intentions of deceiving or tricking another person. Your actions were merely misunderstood. It could be that even though you used the alleged victim’s credit card, this was nothing but an honest mistake.

No Probable Cause

Under the U.S constitution, all American citizens, including criminal defendants, enjoy the Fourth Amendment right. As such, it is illegal for the police to search or detain you if they have no probable cause. Any evidence obtained from an unlawful search cannot be used in court.

Find a Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you or your loved one is accused of credit card fraud in Riverside, CA, a conviction may carry heavy penalties. Irrespective of the facts surrounding your case, a judge may impose punishment that can severely disrupt your life. A conviction for a federal offense can have devastating repercussions because the prosecutors may have gathered evidence over a prolonged period. Fortunately, we can defend you and strive to have your case dismissed or your charges reduced.

At the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, our team also has good relations with the prosecutors and could use this to obtain the best plea bargain. Call us today at 951-946-6366, and let us begin building your defense strategy.