Exploring the Different Charges for Phishing in CA
Phishing involves attempting to gain possession of someone's personal information and/or money through fraud. Depending on the acts, the offense in California typically results in criminal charges for identity theft, credit card fraud, or unauthorized computer access. Each violation carries its own punishments, which include incarceration and/or fines. Considering phishing accusations' seriousness, consulting with a criminal defense lawyer is crucial for protecting rights.
What Is Phishing?
Phishing is a form of internet crime that targets individuals via email, phone, or text. In many cases, the phisher will pretend to be someone the other individual knows to gain their trust. For example, they might claim that they are from a person's bank or maybe even a long-lost relative.
After posing as a legitimate contact, the phisher asks for confidential and personal information such as name, birthday, social security number, or even bank account number, sometimes leading to direct funds transfers.
Unfortunately, these schemes can have extreme consequences, such as financial losses or fraudulent credit card charges. That is why law enforcement officials take these matters seriously.
The Different Charges Levied for Phishing in CA
California does not have a statute in the Penal Code explicitly concerning phishing. (However, the state does have an Anti-Phishing Act as part of the Business and Professions Code, which is a civil matter.) Still, phishing can result in criminal charges, as the acts that constitute it are prohibited under various other laws.
A few examples of the statutes that may apply to a phishing scheme include the following:
- Identity theft: California Penal Code § 530.5 involves unlawfully obtaining another's personal identifying information, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, or Social Security numbers, without consent. Additionally, persons cannot use that information for illegal purposes like committing a crime or obtaining goods, services, credit, or property.
- Fraudulent use of credit cards: Acquiring and using a credit card without the cardholder's consent is illegal under California Penal Code § 484e. The statute says that anyone who, intending to defraud, sells, transfers, uses, or possesses a credit card unlawfully may face criminal charges.
- Unauthorized access to a computer: California Penal Code § 502 prohibits any individual from intentionally accessing a computer, computer system, or network without permission. In addition, the code makes any attempts to alter, delete or damage information on a network or program without prior consent unlawful.
Potential Penalties for Phishing
The punishments a person can face for phishing depend on the acts committed.
Below are the potential penalties for the crimes discussed in the previous section:
- Identity theft: The offense is a wobbler, meaning it can be a misdemeanor or felony. The possible punishments include up to 1 year in jail or 16 months or 2 or 3 years in prison. The court may also impose a fine.
- Credit card fraud: This crime is charged similarly to theft. Depending on whether the actor actually sold, transferred, or used the card information or just intended to do so, the individual can be charged with grand theft or petty theft. Grand theft is a wobbler with potential penalties, including jail for up to 1 year or prison for 16 months or 2 or three years. A fine can also be assessed upon a conviction.
- Unauthorized computer access: The penalties for this crime will also depend on the facts of the case. Typically, punishments include a fine, a maximum jail term of 1 year and/or a prison sentence of 16 months or 2 or 3 years.
Seeking Legal Representation for Your Case
Retaining the services of a criminal defense lawyer is essential if you have been charged with an internet crime. These matters can be extremely complicated because of the types of evidence involved. An attorney can guide you through the legal process and leverage their insights and resources to gather and analyze the evidence and build a strong case.
Learn how our Santa Rosa attorney may be able to assist in your case by calling the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. at (707) 418-5352 or contacting us online today.