With Christmas shopping in full-swing, now might be an important time to highlight a crime that tends to spike around this time of year: the crime of check fraud. While retail establishments in Santa Clarita such as the Valencia Town Center and other merchants are increasingly turning away from personal checks in favor of cash and credit/debit cards, thieves will still find ways to commit the crime and continue to rip people off.
Check fraud is covered under California Penal Code 476 PC and can be described as making, using or possessing a check with which you intend to defraud the payee by representing that check as genuine. Basically, it means if you possess or use a check with the intent of ripping someone off with it, you may be charged with check fraud. Some examples of check fraud are when: individuals who forge signatures on a check, change the dollar amount on the check, or generating a fake check.
When someone is accused of violating PC 476, they can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the check and if the accused person is also guilty of violating PC 530.5, identity theft. If the value of the check is less than $950, and the individual is not also being charged with identity theft, then they will likely be charged with misdemeanor violation of PC 476. The penalties of misdemeanor convictions include up to 1-year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000.
If the value of the check is greater than $950, or if the suspect is also being charged with identity theft, it’s possible that they will be charged with felony violation of PC 476. The punishments involved with it include up to 1-year in county jail as well as probation or 16-months to 3-years in county jail, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.