San Diego Identity Theft Defense Lawyers
Identity theft is one of the most common forms of theft in the United States. In fact, identity theft has become so common in San Diego that the district attorney has created a special unit to investigate and prosecute these crimes. But even this department makes mistakes.
Identity theft by its very nature is an elusive crime, and perpetrators are not easily or immediately identified in most cases. Because of this, many times innocent people are accused of the crime. When that happens, you need a board-certified criminal defense specialist at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys who can help prove your innocence.
There are a number of different types of identity theft, and a person may be charged with one or multiple charges in conjunction with the crime. The type of identity theft an individual will be charged with will depend largely on how the theft was done.
- Financial identity theft occurs when an individual gains access to another individual’s financial information and pretends to be that person for his or her own benefit. This can include credit card fraud, which is stealing someone’s credit card number or information attached to it, the theft of social security numbers, or bank account numbers.
- Governmental identity theft occurs when an individual has applied for government benefits such as Social Security disability insurance in someone else’s name. This most often happens when one person uses someone else’s name in order to file a fake tax return to claim the refund.
- Medical identity theft occurs when an individual uses another person’s name to falsify health insurance claims, refill prescriptions he or she does not have valid access to, or receive benefits such as Medicare or Medicaid.
- Internet takeover is becoming more common as people share their personal information while online. This form of identity theft occurs when someone gains access to another individual’s online accounts, such as an email account or a PayPal account. The individual that had his or her identity stolen may suffer a damaged reputation, or even lose a job. When an individual included personal or financial information in an email, it can even lead to great financial loss as well.
- Child identity theft is when a minor’s information is used for another person’s benefit. Typically, child identity theft only requires the child’s Social Security number to create a new, false identity. It can be even easier to steal children’s identities because they do not have accounts or have to submit forms such as tax returns to the government. Because of this, child identity theft often goes unnoticed until the children start working or start filing taxes. Because this type of theft is typically performed by someone who knows the child, people close to the child who are innocent are often accused or under suspicion of the crime.
What makes identity theft harder to prosecute is that it is not considered to be just one criminal charge. Instead, different charges are laid in conjunction with the crime. These can include credit card fraud, forgery, and using falsified documents, to name just a few.
Credit card fraud is prohibited under state and federal laws. This class of crimes involves knowingly using a credit card or credit card information to receive undeserved gain by deceiving a person or entity into suffering a loss.
Penalties for credit card fraud in California can depend on the specific offense committed, the severity of the crime, and the surrounding circumstances. With a conviction, you could be facing penalties ranging from one to three years in county jail and fines of $1,000 to $10,000. If charged as a federal offense, however, credit card fraud could carry up to 20 years in prison.
Different Credit Card Fraud Offenses in California
Different credit card offenses are prohibited under California statutes, including:
- Fraudulent possession and transfer of a credit card: This crime involves knowingly receiving, giving, or selling a credit card without the owner’s consent. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Fraudulent use of an access card or account information: This involves using a stolen, counterfeited, altered, revoked, forged, or expired credit or debit card to obtain goods, services, or money. Penalties upon conviction will depend on the value of the items received.
- Forging credit card information: Altering a card, producing a counterfeit card, or signing someone else’s name during a transaction without that person’s consent is charged as fraud. This crime is also a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Counterfeiting credit cards: This crime involves altering or modifying any part of a credit card with the intent to deceive. It includes trafficking in counterfeit cards or allowing another person to alter a credit card. Counterfeiting credit cards is charged as forgery in California.
- Fraudulent retail transactions: A retailer may use a phony credit card to complete a transaction in which no actual exchange of goods occurred. This allows the retailer to keep the money from the transaction without providing anything in return. This crime is prosecuted as petty theft for amounts under $950 and grand theft for higher amounts.
- Publishing credit card information: Any verbal, written or digital communication fits the definition of “publishing” in this context. This is a misdemeanor offense that carries a maximum six-month jail sentence and a fine of $1,000.
Legal Defenses Against Charges of Credit Card Fraud
If you are facing credit card charges, the defenses our San Diego criminal defense attorney will raise will depend on the circumstances surrounding your case. Possible defenses may include:
- You did not knowingly commit a fraudulent act with intent to deceive: You may have used someone else’s card unknowingly.
- You did not knowingly use a revoked card: Written notification that the card had been revoked may not have been received.
- You were arrested without probable cause or following an unlawful search and seizure.
If you have been accused of identity theft, you need someone on your side who can help you fight the charges and clear your name. Contact a San Diego theft defense lawyer at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys today for a free consultation. Attorney James N. Dicks saw too many individuals wrongly accused during his former career as an investigator with the LAPD. Today, he works hard to ensure that the innocent remain that way. And when they are wrongly accused, Mr. Dicks is there to fight for them. Dial (760) 630-2000 for a free initial consultation.
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