Tax fraud

California Attorney General Rob Bonta has issued a consumer alert warning Californians of scammers targeting the state’s middle-class tax refund. Californians eligible for this one-time refund will automatically receive a payment by January 2023 by direct deposit or on a debit card. Below, Attorney General Bonta provides tips to help Californians waiting for their tax refund protect themselves from scams.

“The Middle-Class Tax Refund is meant to provide one-time relief to Californians struggling to make ends meet as the cost of living continues to rise,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Unfortunately, there are some bad actors hoping to take advantage as Californians patiently wait for their direct deposit or prepaid debit card to arrive. Do not be fooled. Know what to expect and when, and take precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to a scam.”

Tips to Help You and Your Loved Ones Avoid Being Scammed:

Check with the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) to see an estimate of how much you should receive. While some people with a high income will not receive any money, many people will receive a payment of $200-$350 per person, with additional funding for those who are married or with children. To see how much you should receive, you can go to the FTB website at https://www.ftb.ca.gov/about-ftb/newsroom/middle-class-tax-refund/index.html.

Don’t provide your personal information or pay money to receive your refund. You do not need to take any action or pay any money to receive the refund. The FTB already has the information needed to make a direct deposit into your checking account or to send you a prepaid debit card. To see if you will receive a debit card, visit the FTB website. Do not provide anyone else with your personal information, such as your bank account information, Social Security number, or credit card information.  

Don’t be fooled by scammers who say they can speed up your payment. The FTB stated that the first middle-class refunds were made by direct deposit on October 7, 2022; payments by debit card began on October 24, 2022. Payments are expected to continue through January 14, 2023. Anyone who claims they can get you your money quicker is a scammer.  

Don’t fall for text messages, emails, or calls asking you to “activate” or “reactivate” your prepaid debit card. The FTB will not contact you by text, email, or phone. Do not share personal information with anyone who is contacting you this way, even if they claim to be with the government. Scammers may send you phishing texts or emails that are made to look like government emails or websites. Do not click on any suspicious links. Be aware that scammers can replicate or “spoof” the phone number of a government agency. If you get a call, hang up the phone. 

Know what to look for if you receive a prepaid debit card. You’ll receive your prepaid debit card in an envelope such as the one shown online at https://www.ftb.ca.gov/about-ftb/newsroom/middle-class-tax-refund/help.html. The envelope states, “Not a bill or an advertisement. Important information about your Middle Class Tax Refund.” Envelopes that do not include this information are likely a scam. 

Submitted by California Department of Justice

Submitted Rob Bonta’s office