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Call Kurtis Investigates: Gas tax rebate cards went out without security feature

Gas tax rebate cards went out without security feature
Gas tax rebate cards went out without security feature 03:00

SACRAMENTO — They are called EMV chips and are on almost every debit or credit card we use these days. It's a security feature intended to cut down on fraud.

But why would a state program that puts money back into your hands agree to send out cards without that protection?

Trish Grosjean said a fraudster drained her gas tax rebate debit card on a southern California shopping spree, even though she had her card.

"This card that I literally have in my hand," she told CBS13 during a Zoom interview, showing her gas tax rebate card, "is now useless."

We took a closer look and noticed her card didn't have an EMV chip — an important security measure that produces a one-time unique code every time you pay to cut down on fraud.

We thought it was interesting that the initial graphic the state used when talking about these rebates prominently shows a chip on the front. But this year that changed, as the card on the graphic no longer has a chip.


"The additional security features are the standard - is really where banking is," San Diego Assemblymember David Alvarez said. "That would have been the expectation, from me."

Alvarez has called for an audit of the entire Middle Class Tax Refund rollout, and CBS13 approached him about what was uncovered: cards went out without chips.

The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) said that "the supply of chips was limited, due to a nationwide shortage," but won't tell us how many cards went out like that. The agency also admitted it flipped the card in its graphic to make it more obvious that there were two types of cards going out. This change was made months ago."

But it may have come a little late for some in Assemblymember Alvarez's district. He said people were calling his office.

"Some people were questioning that and asking our office, 'Are these real? Is this the real thing or not?' " he said.

The FTB insists there are "numerous confidential fraud measures in place to minimize fraud," and said its vendor, the Money Network, is reporting a fraud rate of less than 1%. It also says the company is responsible for those losses.

Money Network refused to answer our questions and pointed us back to the FTB.

As any victim of gas tax rebate fraud should, Trish reported it to the Money Network and is now waiting for them to send her a new card with her money on it.

"It's not just about me," she said. "It's not just about the money. Nobody likes to be ripped off." 

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