The Helfend Law Group proudly defends people who have been accused of credit card fraud. Call today for help – 800-834-6434.

According to the FBI, ATM fraud results in over $1 billion in stolen funds each year.

The term “ATM fraud” describes using illicit methods, such as skimming devices, to steal cardholder information to steal from bank accounts or make unauthorized purchases.

Authorities take card skimming scams very seriously, and depending on the facts of the case, they can even result in federal charges. If you’re accused of participating in an ATM fraud scheme, it’s important to seek legal help immediately.

California criminal defense attorney Robert M. Helfend offers expert advice and a strong defense for state or federal skimming fraud allegations. Call 800-834-6434 to schedule a free case review.

What is skimming?

Skimming involves illegally installing devices on ATMs or card readers to obtain cardholders’ PIN numbers and card data. These devices record card numbers, security codes, and other information from a card’s magnetic strip.

Criminals use this data for unauthorized purchases, stealing from accounts, or duplicating cards for distribution or sale. Common skimming locations include:

  • ATMs
  • Point-of-sale (POS) terminals in retail or restaurants
  • Fuel pumps
  • Movie rental kiosks

Different types of skimmers, such as devices inserted into card readers, pinhole cameras, and keylogging keypad overlays, are used to collect data. These devices are usually hidden from customers, allowing significant data theft. Skimming schemes can capture hundreds or thousands of credit card numbers.

Skimming can be charged as a state or federal crime. Large schemes are usually prosecuted federally and carry harsher penalties than state charges.

California credit card fraud laws

Credit card fraud involves the illegal or deceptive use of another party’s credit card or information for gain. California’s laws cover various crimes, including skimming.

Fraudulent possession and transfer of a credit card (484e PC)

In California, skimming is covered by Penal Code 484e PC. This statute applies when someone knowingly receives, sells or distributes a credit card or information without the owner’s consent. It is a “wobbler” charge, meaning it can be a misdemeanor or felony.

Other related laws include:

  • Forging credit card information (484f PC)
  • Fraudulent use of an access card or account information (484g PC)
  • Fraudulent retail transactions (484h PC)
  • Counterfeiting credit cards (484i PC)
  • Publishing credit card information (484j PC)

Federal skimming fraud

Credit card fraud is a federal offense if it crosses state lines or involves government fraud. International schemes are also prosecuted federally.

Defendants in federal skimming cases face multiple charges, such as:

  • Wire fraud
  • Conspiracy
  • Money laundering
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Identity theft
  • Bank fraud

Penalties depend on the charges, criminal history, and case details.

Skimming and conspiracy

Skimming schemes often involve multiple parties, including those who:

  • Make skimming devices
  • Place devices on card readers or ATMs
  • Produce or distribute counterfeit cards
  • Share or sell stolen information
  • Make purchases with counterfeit cards or stolen data

Participants can be charged with conspiracy under 18 U.S. Code Section 1349, even for minor roles.

Penalties for card skimming scams

Penalties vary by whether charges are state or federal, misdemeanor or felony, the specific offenses, and case details.

California skimming fraud penalties

Under Penal Code 484e PC, fraudulent possession and transfer of a credit card is prosecuted as grand theft, either a misdemeanor or felony.

  • Misdemeanor penalties: Up to $1,000 fine and one year in county jail.
  • Felony penalties: Up to $10,000 fine and three years in county jail.

Additional charges may result in more penalties.

Federal skimming fraud penalties

Federal penalties depend on specific charges but may include:

  • Fines up to $500,000
  • Up to 20 years in federal prison

If charged with skimming fraud, it’s important to hire a criminal defense attorney immediately. Law enforcement and prosecutors will work hard against you, especially in federal cases.

Legal defense options include:

  • Negotiating plea agreements to reduce penalties
  • Negotiating immunity for providing information on a conspiracy
  • Preventing evidence from illegal searches or seizures

Given the complexity and potential penalties, hire an attorney specializing in fraud and federal crimes. Robert M. Helfend has over four decades of experience in California state and federal cases. Recognized by Super Lawyers and the National Trial Lawyers Association, he aggressively defends his clients.

Call 800-834-6434 for a free case review.

Published July 4, 2024.