The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is warning the public of an increase in scams as we draw closer to the income tax filing deadline on April 30.
“Their persistency has created so much fear amongst the public that many people automatically assume that any communication from someone identifying themselves as the CRA is not genuine,” wrote CRA spokesperson Gurm Kundan in a press release.
Some of the ways the CRA says swindlers trick people over the phone this time of year is by demanding immediate payment through e-transfers, Bitcoin, pre-paid credit cards, or gift cards to Home Depot, Amazon or iTunes. Then they’re told to leave the cash cards in a pre-arranged location for pick-up.
“We'd never ask you to give us a payment in that way,” CRA spokesperson Sharon Gill told The Tri-City News. “We don't threaten you or make you feel abused at the end of the call.”
The CRA will also never ask to meet you in person, nor will they text or send messages through a social media app like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. If someone identifies himself or herself as the CRA and tells you they are calling to begin an audit process or threaten arrest, they should not be trusted.
Beyond phone calls, the CRA does contact the public through email and standard post. But the tax agency will not email you any correspondence with a link asking you to fill in personal or financial details, or to get a tax refund.
“We will send email correspondence but only if you've signed up for My Account on the website and then we'd be asking you to log on to My Account to look at your latest info,” said Gill, referring to the CRA's online portal.
Identity theft is another worry. The CRA will never ask for the numbers on your passport, health card or driver’s licence over the phone. But the tax agency may ask your full name, date of birth, address or social insurance number so it can verify your identity.
“When in doubt, double, double check,” said Gill.
If you have any feeling you’re being scammed, she says to hang up and call the CRA’s general inquiries tax line at 1-800-959-8281. The CRA can look in its phone records and check if one of their agents called you.
All that said, the CRA may call if they have already written and:
- you owe tax or money to a government program. In this case, a collections officer may call you to discuss your file, ask information about your household finances, and make a payment.
- you didn’t file your income tax and benefit return, in which case a CRA officer may call and ask for the missing returns.
A CRA officer may also call to ask for more information regarding your tax and benefit records, or if you are a small business owner, to offer a visit from a Liaison Officer.
If someone has tried to swindle you, you can report the scam to the Anti-Fraud Centre at http://www.antifraudcentre.ca/ or call 1-888-495-8501.
If you have been the victim of fraud or unwittingly handed over personal or financial information, the CRA recommends calling local police, your financial institution and any credit card companies immediately.