You’ve probably received one of the calls: An automated message threatens you with arrest over unpaid taxes.
Hopefully you were fortunate enough to identify the call as a scam, but if you called back you would have been further threatened by someone claiming to be an agent of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
It was recently reported that dozens of CRA tax scammers were arrested during police raids in India. So does that mean the calls will stop now? Or at least dramatically decrease?
The number of calls may actually increase as the scammers work even harder to avoid detection.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, more than 74,000 Canadians have complained about being targeted by the CRA phone scam over the past five years. More than $15 million dollars has been stolen in that same time period, making it one of the largest cyber scams in Canadian history.
Who falls for the scam?
As an immigrant, I am particularly terrified of being on the wrong side of the law in Canada, so I know I would be frantic about getting a call from the CRA.
However, as I talk to more people, I realize it’s not just an immigrant thing – everyone is scared of getting a call from the CRA and potentially being in some sort of legal trouble.
You may think that you would never fall for such scams. However, these scams persist because they work. Even the smartest people can fall for them when the way our brains work is used against us.
Plus, scammers are constantly thinking of different ways to trick people.
One example is Caller ID spoofing, which involves changing the information that appears on the Caller ID display. Illegitimate telemarketers and scammers use this technique to misrepresent themselves and trick people into trusting them.
For example, we’ve heard from someone who received a phone call with the Caller ID showing as “911” that ended up being a CRA scam. The ‘911’ on the Caller ID played a huge part in convincing her of the authenticity of the call. If it has been a random number, she would have likely asked more questions.
What should I look for?
The CRA will never request personal or financial information over the phone, nor will they ever threaten people with police involvement. Here’s a list of things the CRA will never do:
- ask for personal information by email or text message
- request payment by prepaid credit card, gift card or Bitcoin
- share your tax information with another person or organization, unless you have agreed that it can be shared
- leave personal information on an answering machine
- threaten or use nasty language.
When in doubt, call the CRA at 1-800-959-8281 or check your account online.
You should report deceptive telemarketing to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or by calling 1-888-495-8501.
If you suspect you may be the victim of fraud or have been tricked into giving personal or financial information, contact your local police.
Keep in mind that it’s not just CRA scammers running phone scams and using Caller ID spoofing. You should always be careful giving personal and financial information over the phone or online. Here are eight of the most common scams to watch for.
If something seems wrong or too good to be true, proceed with caution as it could be a scam.