How to protect yourself against financial phone scams this tax season

How to protect yourself against financial scams this tax season

And what to expect if the CRA really does call

Since 2014, almost 75,000 Canadians have contacted the RCMP about an ongoing phone scam, in which callers pretend to be CRA agents to pressure victims into transferring large sums of money to the scammers. This is one of the largest financial fraud schemes targeting Canadians—and it tracks all the way to Mumbai. These “financial terrorists” have stolen over $10 million from Canadians in the past five years. With tax season coming up, learn the techniques used by phone scammers and talk to your family about how to keep safe from financial phone scams.  

How do phone scams work?

According to CBC News, the phone scam based in Mumbai involves robo-dialers, pretending to be CRA agents, that call Canadian phones “en masse”, leaving an urgent message to call them back. Those who do call back are threatened with arrest or loss of employment due to unpaid back taxes. The scammers offer to help the caller clear their name by making a quick payment, which is often in the thousands of dollars. They are then transferred to another department, where they are threatened again and told how to transfer the money. Understandably, it can be alarming when you think you are being contacted by the CRA, so it’s important to know how to identify the real CRA agents from the scammers.

What to expect if the CRA contacts you

The most vulnerable victims of phone scams are the elderly and new immigrants. Talk to your family members and neighbours about how to stay safe from scammers this tax season. Here’s what to expect if the CRA actually contacts you:

The CRA will never:

  • ask for information about your passport, health card, or driver’s license
  • demand payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, or prepaid credit cards or gift cards
  • use aggressive language or threaten you with arrest or sending the police
  • leave voicemails that are threatening or include personal or financial information
  • send you a message via text message or another instant messaging app

The CRA may:

  • verify your identity by asking for your full name, date of birth, address, or social insurance number
  • ask for you details about your account, in the case of a business inquiry
  • call you to begin an audit process
  • notify you by email or mail when a new message or document is available to view in your secure CRA portal
  • ask you to pay an amount you owe through one of the CRA’s secure payment options

To read more about protecting yourself against scammers posing as CRA employees, click here.

Protect yourself from identity theft

The RCMP describe identity theft as “the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes”, as opposed to identity fraud, which is the actual use of personal information for criminal purposes. Identity theft can be as simple as stealing someone’s mail or as complex as computer hacking.

To ensure that you do not become a victim of identity theft, be sure to:

  • Never provide personal information through the internet or by email.
  • Be suspicious if you are ever asked to pay taxes or fees to the CRA on lottery or sweepstakes winnings.
  • Keep your access codes, user ID, passwords, and PINs secret.
  • Keep your address current with all government departments and agencies.
  • Choose carefully who prepares your taxes
  • Never volunteer personal information to an unknown caller

Read more identity theft safety tips here.

If you receive a call from an unknown number, don’t be alarmed. But always take caution if the caller is requesting you to send or receive money (yes, phone scams can sometimes appear in the form of false lottery winnings as well!). And if you’re ever unsure about money you may owe on your taxes, contact the CRA directly. By keeping aware of financial scams, you can keep your family safe from fraud and identity theft this tax season.

Disclaimer:  This blog and website is made available by SKM Forensics for educational purposes only as well as to give the reader some general information and a general understanding of the topics discussed. SKM Forensics is not a law firm nor do we employee lawyers.  By using this blog site you understand that the information provided does not constitute legal advice. Should you be a victim of a crime we strongly urge you to seek accredited legal counsel and contact your local police service. Please note that the material in this blog is directed at readers in Canada so if you reside in any other country we would urge you to consult authorities from you local jurisdiction.