The Attorney General warns California residents to be aware of scammers involving refunds.


On Monday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta released a consumer warning to alert California residents of potential scammers using the inflation relief refund as a way to scam money from people.

This refund is targeted at middle class California residents to help with inflation and started being released in October, which is expected to continue until January 2023. Because of this long time frame, Bonta stated that some scammers are tricking residents into paying money to supposedly speed up their refund process.

In his statement, Bonta said “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,” according to KTLA News.

These refunds are one-time payments that are said to be an amount between $200 to $1050, according to people’s filing status, income and number of dependents.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer also spoke out in warning against fraud attempts. He said in an interview, “Californians are so eager at this time of year to get this tax relief. It would be a fairly automatic gesture to simply click onto a link, when you’re asked to activate a California prepaid debit card. Any of us could be vulnerable to this,” according to ABC News.

Here are some tips to recognize and avoid scams:

  • Residents can verify with the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) to estimate how much their refund will be. The average amount will be around $250 to $350 but some people may receive more if they are married or have children.
  • To receive a refund, residents do not need to provide any information about a bank or any personal identification. People also do not need to pay any money to receive their refund, which is what some scammers have been aiming to get people to do. 
  • People should not believe messages promising to speed up their payment in exchange for anything. The FTB will continue disbursing payments through January so residents do not need to do anything to obtain their relief refund. Anyone who says differently is a scammer.
  • Be on the alert for suspicious text messages, calls or emails that may ask you to verify personal information or “activate” or “reactivate” your prepaid debit card. The FTB does not need people to do any of these actions and will not contact residents through any of these methods. Scammers are able to create links and usernames that resemble government agencies. Residents are cautioned not to click on or open any of these types of messages. 
  • If residents accidentally click on a link, immediately close whatever was opened and clear the device’s cookies, cache and browsing data. If you suspect that malware has been downloaded, you can go through your recent downloads and look for anything suspicious or unfamiliar.

The FTB stated that if the refund arrives as a prepaid debit card, the envelope will be marked with the statement, “Not a bill or an advertisement. Important information about your Middle Class Tax Refund,” according to the State of California Department of Justice website.