Credit card theft and fraud are no laughing matter. The punishment can be light to very severe, depending on the severity of the crime.

Victimization is also common. An Equifax data breach in 2017 affected 147 million people. Also, 15.4 million people were victimized by identity theft fraud and credit card fraud in 2016, which led to losses totaling nearly $16 billion.

Sometimes, people commit white-collar crime without even realizing it. Other times it’s intentional. No matter the motive or lack thereof, legal representation could be needed to avoid penalties.

Penalties for fraud, embezzlement, and other white-collar crimes vary by state but are judged based on numerous factors, including:

  • Criminal history
  • The amount of assets stolen
  • Was the crime an accident or intentional?
  • Was the victim elderly?

Credit card and identity fraud penalties range from possible fines and jail time for minor convictions to significant prison time for more severe crimes. The retribution depends on the state.

If convicted in California, it depends on whether the conviction is for petty theft or grand theft. Petty theft is often accompanied by a maximum fine of $1,000, op to 6 months of jail time, or both.

Those found guilty of grand theft face increased fines, up to one year in jail, or an advanced sentence in federal prison if the defendant has a criminal past or faces a conviction for a more severe crime.

Ways you could commit accidental credit card fraud are as follows:

  • Using someone else’s credit card
  • Submitting fake credit card information to sign up for a free trial
  • Disputing your personal credit card charges
  • Lying on a credit card application