Credit card “skimming,” which is using a device to acquire credit or debit card and personal information from a gas pump or ATM, is a serious offense in California, and credit card skimming in Orange County can result in a lengthy jail sentence.
Usually, credit card skimming is accomplished by someone who gains access to an ATM, gas pump or another device in which people swipe their debit/credit card. The skimmer is a device attached to or installed in the card reader that collects the information contained on the card's magnetic strip, including card numbers, security codes, pin numbers, and other information.
This information is used to make unauthorized purchases on the card or make counterfeit cards containing the stolen information. Sometimes, the information will be sold to others over the Internet for them to use.
California has a specific law that makes credit card skimming a crime. California Penal Code Section 502.6 states that:
Any person who knowingly, willfully, and with the intent to defraud, possesses a scanning device, or who knowingly, willfully, and with intent to defraud, uses a scanning device to access, read, obtain, memorize or store, temporarily or permanently, information encoded on the magnetic strip or stripe of a payment card without the permission of the authorized user of the payment card is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a term in a county jail not to exceed one year, or a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both the imprisonment and fine.
You can face up to one year in jail just for possessing or using a skimming device. However, using or selling the information credit/debit card acquired from a skimmer can subject you to prosecution for a whole range of California credit card fraud and debit card fraud crimes, including violations of:
- Penal Code 484e: stolen credit cards
- Penal Code 484f: forging credit card information
- Penal Code 484g: fraudulent use of a credit card
- Penal Code 484h: retailer credit card fraud
- Penal Code 484i: counterfeiting credit cards
- Penal Code 484j: publishing credit card information
If you have been accused of a crime involving the use of a credit card skimmer in Orange County, please give one of our experienced Orange County criminal defense lawyers a call as soon as possible. (Also see our article about check fraud vs. credit card fraud under California law.)