-by Bonnie MacIsaac
Once again the CRA tax scam is back in the headlines. And, once again the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Canada Revenue Agency and other agencies are trying their best to get the word out so they can stop people from being scammed. RCMP report that since this scam appeared over 4000 victims have reported losses of $15.2 million!
The BBB reminds consumers that this scam can come in the form of a phone call, email, or text message. “If you don’t pay, you’re going to jail.” “The police are coming to arrest you right now.” These are some of the things that people who have received the threatening tax scam phone call have heard. This scam reappears every tax season with a new spin on the same old con. Fraudsters pretend to be calling on behalf of the Canada Revenue Agency and demand payment for overdue taxes or try to gain access to your personal information.
“The CRA tax scam call is one of the most frequent scams we hear about at BBB,” says BBB President and CEO, Peter Moorhouse. “Although international law agencies have intervened, and even shut some of these call centres down, the scam is still very prevalent, especially with tax season approaching.”
This scam is most commonly performed via an unsolicited telephone call. The CRA ‘agent’ calls saying that you owe back taxes and proceeds to try and coerce you into paying fees via wire transfer or prepaid credit or debit cards. If you do not comply, the caller will threaten that you will be arrested, and the police are on their way.
Another spin on this scam is the ‘agent’ will call you claiming that they are issuing you a tax return and try to get your personal and financial information, so they can send your refund. The information that scammers collect can be used to steal your identity. These impersonators are growing increasingly sophisticated and will go to great lengths to make themselves appear legitimate. They will even give you fake employee badge numbers and can spoof their caller ID to look like the call is coming from CRA headquarters. Sometimes, scammers will follow-up their calls with emails that look like they are coming from an official source, trying to further legitimize themselves, and eliciting urgency for the victim to make payment.
How to spot this scam
Fraudsters will use high-pressure tactics to get you to act quickly. They want you to act out of fear before you have time to think. A lot of the time, they will call during odd hours such as early in the morning or late at night, so they can catch you when you’re tired, and may not be in a clear head space. The real CRA will listen to you, give you opportunities to ask questions, and make any appeals, they may ask you for details such as name or date of birth to confirm your identity. CRA’s first form of communication with you will always be by mail; not by phone or email and they will not call outside of business hours. If you received a text message claiming to be from CRA, please ignore it, as they will never use text message to communicate with you.
Scammers also pressure you to make payments in prepaid cards, wire transfers, or other non-traditional payments such as gift cards. They use these methods as they are highly untraceable and irreversible. CRA says they will never demand payment over the phone by Interact, e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards, or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes.
If you are unsure about a call claiming to be from CRA, they recommend confirming your tax status through one of their secure online portals. You can also call the CRA’s Individual Tax Account Balance Automated Service at 1-866-474-8272, this line gives you information on outstanding tax balances.
CRA informs people that they would never ask for money to be sent via money transfer or prepaid card. As well, they ask people to contact them anytime a threatening or unusual phone call references your taxes. BBB also recommends reporting the call online using Scam Tracker, which can be found at BBB’s website.
If you have fallen victim to this scam, contact your local police service. If you believe your Canadian Social Insurance Number has been stolen, contact Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218.
To report a tax scam, go to the BBB's Scam Tracker – https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us.
BBB has the following tips to avoid this and other phone scams:
– Don’t rely on caller ID to identify a number. Just as email scammers can spoof email addresses, phone scammers have ways of making calls look like they’re coming from a familiar number or even your own phone number.
– If you get a cell phone call from an unfamiliar number, check the number online before you return the call. Be especially careful about calls from unfamiliar area codes. Some “one-ring” scams have originated from the following area codes: 268, 274, 473, 809, and 876.
– Sign up for the no-call list administered by the Canadian Radio – Television and Telecommunications Commission.
– Never give an unsolicited caller access to your computer. If you are having trouble with a computer or software, contact the supplier directly through a customer service phone number, website, or email address on your bill or on the supplier’s website.
Thanks to the Better Business Bureau for this timely information. You can keep up to date with the BBB by checking out their website at http://www.bbb.org/atlantic-provinces.
The Canada Revenue Service offers the following guidelines to better equip taxpayers to identify those communications that do not come from the CRA:
If you have signed up for online mail (available through MyAccount, My Business Account, and Represent a Client), the CRA will do the following:
– The CRA will send a registration confirmation email to the address provided once an individual or business has registered for the online mail service.
– The CRA will also send an email to the address provided to notify you when new online mail is available to view in the CRA’s secure online services portal.
The CRA will not do the following:
– The CRA will not send emails containing any links.
– The CRA will not request personal information of any kind from a taxpayer by email or text message.
– The CRA will not divulge taxpayer information to another person unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer.
– The CRA will not send emails in English or French only: all communications are in both official languages.
– The CRA will not leave any personal information on an answering machine.
When in doubt, ask yourself the following:
– Did I sign up to receive my online mail through MyAccount, My Business Account, or Represent a Client?
– Did I provide my email address on my Individual Income Tax and Benefit return to receive my mail online?
– Am I expecting additional money from the CRA?
– Does this sound too good to be true?
– Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?
– Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?
– How did the requester get my email address?
– Am I confident I know who is asking for the information?
The CRA will continue to post notifications of fraudulent communications as they become aware of them and encourages you to check their website should you have concerns.
Examples – You will find examples of a fraudulent letter and online scams that may include emails and online refund forms on the CRA’s website.
With respect to telephone calls, the CRA will occasionally leave messages for taxpayers on their answering machines. In these cases, a callback number will be provided along with a request to have the taxpayer’s SIN available upon callback. However, it is important to note that not all telephone messages purporting to be from the CRA are genuine. Should taxpayers wish to verify the authenticity of a CRA telephone number, they should contact the CRA directly by using the numbers on our telephone numbers page. For business-related calls, contact 1-800-959-5525 and for individual concerns, contact 1-800-959-8281.
For information on scams, to report deceptive telemarketing, or if you have given personal or financial information unwittingly, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, toll-free: 1-888-495-8501.
Your chance to win! I recently dropped in to visit the folks at Inverness County Literacy to get information on their programs to pass along to you. They generously donated an Inverness County backpack that I could give away! So how do you enter? Send your name, address, phone number, and your very best consumer tip. We all have at least one!
Entries must be received by 4:00 p.m. Friday, March 29th, 2019. A random draw will be held on March 31st, 2019, from all entries received. Winner must be able to pick the backpack up in Inverness. The winner will be announced right here in this column in the April 3rd, 2019, issue. Don’t forget to follow the rules! Good luck and remember you can't win of you don't enter!