The Big Phony: 5 Ways to Protect Yourself From Fake CRA Calls
For several months Canadians have been getting hit with aggressive calls, text messages, emails and letters from scam artists claiming to represent the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). These fraudsters call individuals at home threatening penalties, jail, even deportation — and demanding immediate payment for “taxes owing”.
Typically, the impersonator demands payment by some unofficial means – often by credit card, PayPal, wire transfer or even your bank’s e-transfer service. According to recent news reports, the demands tend to range from $700 to $3,000. Many Canadians have been victimized, including seniors in Victoria. And there is growing suspicion that newcomers to Canada unfamiliar with CRA processes are among those being targeted.
Since the real CRA does make phone calls and send letters – and the calls can seem very convincing — how can you protect yourself from fraud? Here’s how.
1. Ask for a case number along with the agent’s name and ID number.
Then tell the person that you are hanging up and will be calling the Canada Revenue Agency to confirm. (For individuals, trusts, international tax and non-residents, including personal income tax returns, visit the CRA website or call 1-800-959-8281.)
2. If the caller asks for a prepaid credit card or credit card payment, hang up immediately.
The CRA does not accept credit cards, so this is a clear indication that the call is fraudulent.
3. If you receive a voicemail or text message claiming to be the CRA AND it leaves personal information such as your SIN or specific dollar amounts owing, do not respond.
The CRA will never leave personal information on your answering machine.
4. Never provide personal information, including your SIN number, through email or text message.
5. Be careful before you click on any links in an email claiming to be from the CRA.
Criminals often use a technique called phishing to steal your personal information when you click on the link.
CRA will ONLY contact you through email IF you have set up an online account with them. And even then, it will only be a notification that there is information available for you on the online account.
They will NOT send or request any personal information by email and they will NEVER text.
If in doubt, call your accounting professional. He or she should be able to help you navigate the proper CRA channels to determine whether there is a tax balance outstanding.
Alex Young, CPA, CGA, is a partner with Loren Nancke. He is good with numbers and great with people … and has a legendary memory for Homer Simpson trivia. You can reach him at 604-904-3807 in Vancouver, British Columbia.