Target has been in the news in recent weeks for a major credit and debit card data security breach affecting approximately 40 million accounts. Though it isn't yet clear who's behind the breach, there's already evidence that the sensitive account information is being sold on the black market.
Let's take the opportunity now to review the laws in California involving credit card fraud. Fraud involves the misuse of an access card, typically credit and debit cards, and any information related to the account for each card (e.g. the card number, the security code, etc.). What are some examples of illegally using a card?
- If in any situation you use the card without the permission of the account holder, you could be charged with credit card fraud. Anyone purchasing illegally obtained card information from the Target hackers and using it are liable for fraud charges.
- Misusing the card doesn't have to involve purchasing things directly with it. If you obtain money or other benefits by selling card account information (as the Target hackers are doing), this also constitutes fraudulent behavior.
- Fraud could also involve using and/or providing people with cards that have been forged in some way and are counterfeit. If you're also selling equipment that could be used to forge credit cards, you may face fraud charges.
- It's also possible to use your own card in fraudulent ways; for instance, if you know it's a canceled card or that your balance is too low for the purchase you're making, you could find yourself facing credit card fraud charges.
Credit card fraud can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on a number of factors, including the scope of the crime and how many people it affected. The punishment includes fines for up to $10,000 and incarceration for up to 3 years in jail. Credit card fraud can also be one of several simultaneous charges. For instance, the Target hackers would probably also be up for charges of grand theft, computer crimes and various other "enhancements" which can significantly increase their punishment.
Credit card fraud doesn't always happen deliberately; sometimes there's a genuine error or misunderstanding that led to the misuse of a card. If you've been arrested for credit card fraud in Temecula, Murrieta, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Corona or Riverside, regardless of the circumstances, you will need you'll need to contact a reputable criminal defense attorney who will carefully review the details of your case. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.