Using someone else's credit card is not a violent offense. Often those who do it are in a bind and simply have no other financial sources to draw from. Some people even believe that credit card theft is a victimless crime as the card owners are protected from having to pay for unauthorized charges. But credit card theft is a criminal offense and if you are arrested and charged, you could face fines and jail time.
In California, the unauthorized use of a credit card for the purpose of obtaining services, goods or money is referred to as "credit card fraud." There are a number of ways in which a person may perpetrate an act of credit card fraud, including the following:
- Using an altered or forged credit or debit card.
- Using account information connected to a card.
- Using a stolen credit or debit card.
- Continuing to use a card that has expired.
Anyone caught in engaging in these acts in California can be charged with theft. If a suspect is convicted of credit card fraud, the severity of punishment is typically contingent upon the amount taken in the theft. If the use of the card netted more than $950 during a period of six straight months, the defendant will likely be charged with grand theft, which could result in a jail sentence of up to a year. This sentence could be longer if the defendant has a record of previous criminal activities.
And while a conviction for credit card fraud may not result in a long prison term, the damage done to your reputation could have long-term consequences. For example, many employers may automatically disqualify applicants with criminal records. Others may see the theft charge as an indication of untrustworthiness and be unwilling to give the applicant a chance.
If you have been arrested for credit card fraud, you may wish to seek the representation of a California property crime attorney. The attorney could advise you on your best course of action in an effort to help you get the most satisfactory possible outcome given your circumstances.