March and April is often a very stressful time for most Canadians. Generally, it is the time of year that we all dread – preparing our taxes. At GBA, we help thousands of people file their taxes every year, and every year, we get numerous call from our clients often in a panic, asking us questions about messages that they have already received from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Therefore, we thought this would be a good time to address some of the usual questions about scams vs real CRA agents.
Over the past years, there has been an increase in the efforts of scammers to defraud you of your hard earned money. Given the large number of languages spoken in the Toronto area, scammers have been leaving messages in multiple languages, but the messages are usually similar – you owe the CRA; we are filing criminal charges; the police are outside and will arrest you; unless you send money. Many people have such an adverse reaction to dealing with CRA, that when they are on the phone with the fake CRA, they suspend their doubts and often fall victim to the scam. If this has happened to you or someone you know, you are not alone. Here are some guidelines to help you determine if the communication is real or not.
Method of communication
Phone – by far the most pervasive method by scammers to contact you would be by phone. Just remember that CRA will actually contact you by phone as well, but the main difference with all these methods is that scammers are “blind” calling people. By that we mean that when they call your number, they actually do not know who they are calling – they are just hoping to get a positive reaction from their perspective and go from there. Many phone calls are recorded messages saying that the RCMP will arrest you if your taxes are not paid immediately.
Email – this is the easiest scam to detect. CRA does NOT email anyone, not even tax preparers like us. You can sign up for emails using my account, but the email usually just mentions that you have mail and to check your account on the CRA website.
Texts – the CRA NEVER sends text messages. These texts usually will ask you to click on a link – this link will either be malware to infect your phone or a link to get you to submit your personal information so that they can commit identity fraud.
Is it true or fake?
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles (including this one) on the web that will help you to identify whether it is a real call or a scammer. Here is a real easy way to determine if it is real. When you get a call, listen carefully. If they ask you to identify yourself, DON’T. Most of the scammers are just using robo dialers and don’t know a thing about you. Some of the more sophisticated ones might target you from information that is easily accessible from the internet, such as your Facebook, Instagram, Linked in accounts, so bear in mind what they are asking. If it is CRA, think about what information they should have. When you call CRA, CRA will ask you for your Social Insurance Number, your address and date of birth. They won’t ever ask you or know which high school you attended, where you spent your summer vacation, etc., but Facebook knows…..
A simple thing that we advise our clients to do when they get a call from a live person is to ask them what your full name is…. If they cannot give you your full name as a starter, they are fake. I have done this with a bank. There were flabbergasted, but I was not expecting their call so I asked them to tell me something specific about me – like the street number of my house. They did, and then I was comfortable. With CRA, it is also fine to ask the person to send their requests in writing because you do not divulge sensitive information over the phone. If the call is recorded, do not call them back.
Payments to CRA
CRA will only take payments by cheque or payment through your bank as set up through the banking system (not a vendor that you would have to set up). They do NOT take gift cards. They do not send someone to your door to collect cash. They do not have a Western Union account and they do not accept Bitcoin.
What to do if you or your friend has fallen victim to a scam?
REPORT IT. If you are not sure that a message is from CRA, call CRA – 1-800-959-8281 for personal enquiries or 1-800-959-5525 for business enquiries.
If you think you have given your social insurance number to someone in error or suspect identity theft, immediately contact Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218.
Lastly, file a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) toll-free at 1-888-495-8501, whether or not you have paid money.
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This blog is not meant to provide specific advice or opinions regarding the topic(s) discussed above. Should you have a question about your specific situation, please discuss it with your GBA advisor.
GBA LLP is a full-service accounting firm in the Greater Toronto Area, but we primarily service all of Ontario as well as the rest of Canada virtually, except Quebec. Our team of over 30, provides Audits and Reviews of financial statements, and Compilations of financial information, as well as corporate tax returns. We provide specialized corporate tax and succession planning for small and medium businesses, in addition to general advisory services.
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