In the U.S., millions of people are victims of identity theft each year. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the agency received more than 1.4 million fraud reports in 2020, nearly double the number of identity theft reports in 2019. The government estimates that identity theft and credit card fraud resulted in nearly $3.3 billion in losses. As a result, the U.S. Department of Justice aggressively pursues credit card fraud schemes.
California Residents Face Fraud Charges
According to an announcement from the Department of Justice, a grand jury returned a 20-count indictment against two Southern California defendants, charging them with identity theft and credit card fraud. The defendants could each face up to ten years in prison for access device fraud, two years in prison for aggravated identity theft, and a $250,000 fine. The case is the culmination of an FBI investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincente A. Tennerelli will prosecute the case.
What Can We Learn?
Looking at the fraud and identity theft charges faced by the defendants, in this case, we see that virtually any unauthorized use of a credit card can result in fraud charges. While prosecutors can pursue these charges through state or federal courts, defendants will usually face federal charges. If you've been arrested for credit card fraud or identity theft, it's important to understand what the law construes as fraud and the charges you could face.
Credit Card Fraud
Many activities can result in charges for identity theft and credit card fraud, including:
- Collecting financial and personal data from credit card skimmers,
- Using a lost or stolen credit card,
- Using a borrowed card without permission,
- Stealing mail to obtain credit card and personal information,
- Using email for phishing schemes to obtain personal or account information, and
- Identity theft, such as using someone else's personal information to open credit accounts, create fake accounts, or hijack an existing account.
Credit card fraud often results in a wide range of charges rather than a single “credit card fraud” charge. Federal prosecutors can pursue charges under mail, wire, and bank fraud statutes, as well as identity theft statutes:
- 18 U.S.C. § 1028A: Identity theft
- 18 U.S.C. § 1029: Fraud and related activities in connection with access devices
- 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1036: Fraud and false statements
- 18 U.S.C. § 1344: Bank Fraud
- 18 U.S.C. § 1341: Mail Fraud
- 18 U.S.C. § 1343: Wire Fraud
- 18 U.S.C. § 1037: Email Fraud
- 18 U.S.C. §§ 2325-2327: Telemarketing Fraud
You Need an Experienced Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
If you were arrested for credit card fraud or identity theft, you need an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. At Sigal Law Group, we're committed to aggressively defending our clients in federal court. If you're facing federal charges in the Los Angeles area, give us a call. We can help. Call us at 818-325-0570 to schedule your free consultation.