Although I’ve spoken about these CRA scams in a past post, I think it’s important to stress them again especially since CRA scammers have been on the rise (particularly during tax season). In fact, from January. 1, 2017 to February. 26, 2018, there have been 111 incidents of citizens falling prey to the CRA frauds and leaving scammers with $311,736.21 from these citizens 1. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) only fewer than 5 % of victims report being scammed. The CAFC states that many individuals are likely too embarrassed to report that they got scammed.
In the past, vulnerable seniors or new immigrants (some of who may not yet be very familiar with how the tax system works) were more likely to be victims of these scams. Yet, the CRA frauds have become so sophisticated that even police who have been contacted by these scam artists, state that the calls are relatively believable and realistic. Detective Linda Herczeg who works with the Edmonton Police Service’s Economic Crimes Unit, states that the CRA scams are “getting better….it’s expanding and growing. It’s not going to stop.”
In some instances, targeted individuals have reported “that their telephone call display reads ‘Police’, ‘CRA’, or ‘Government’, with a phone number. With today’s technology, the fraudsters do have the tools to make their scam look extremely believable and they are well versed in convincing people that they are legitimate.”
One good example of how vulnerable individuals are not the only victims of scam artists is Tom Kane’s story. 74 years old, Kane who is a Toronto resident, has taught computer technology at Centennial College for 22 years. He is currently retired and takes photography night courses at Ryerson. Although he teaches people how to protect themselves against phishing and other computer fraud, he has fallen for the CRA scam and got conned to transfer $5,000 to CRA scammers in Bitcoins.
How does a thoughtful, articulate person become a victim of the CRA scam?
Kane recalls in hindsight that he “simply panicked when [the CRA scammers] threatened with the arrival of the police. He came to Canada as a draft dodger in the 1960s after growing up in Chicago, where, he says, he developed a distrust of cops. Even after paying the scammers, he was hesitant to return home thinking the police would be lying in wait.” He states, that “All the signs were there that it was a fraud but they scared the living daylights out of me. My sensibility just went poof. From the first call in the morning until I got home, I was basically operating in a state of panic.”
So how can we prevent these scams from happening? Detective Linda Herczeg states, “We need to educate people. We need to give them the tools they need to deal with it.”
Here are 6 telltale signs of a CRA scam artist:
- CRA will not ask you to provide specific personal information like a bank number and passwords so if CRA calls and requests such info, know that it is a scam and never provide personal information on incoming calls.
- CRA will never request payment via iTunes or other gift cards or Bitcoin or a money service business. This is also a red flag for a CRA scam. Scam artists request payments via these methods because it makes them very difficult for police to track and investigate.
- CRA will never text message you, email you or leave you voicemail messages. Instead, CRA will send you a registered letter. CRA will also only email you if you request information. CRA impersonators commonly leave a voicemail which is a clear warning sign that you are targeted.
- CRA will never use threatening or aggressive language, demanding that you pay up or else you may go to jail or be deported. These aggressive and threatening modes of communication are meant to put you in a panic mode which may cause you to feel fraught with anxiety, and deplete you of the resources required to stay fully in the present.2 This panic mode is precisely what’s needed to not think rationally about the situation and hand over your money to CRA scam artists. So in such cases, it’s best to hang up the phone and contact the CRA to verify whether you owe back taxes or are entitled to a refund.
- CRA does not threaten that police have been dispatched.
- Since the CRA scams are sophisticated and have the ability “to hide a call’s origin and make it appear to be from legitimate government offices or financial institutions,” it is not enough to simply look up the caller id number and see that it matches the CRA number. Call the CRA by accessing their phone number from the CRA website and then verify the status of your account.
According to Constable Scott Davis, Public and Media Relations Officer, the best way to deal with the CRA impersonators is to end the call as quickly as possible by simply hanging up on them. “They may call back but when they realize that you are not falling for their scam they will move on.”.3
If you require consultation or a have any accounting inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact us. S&P Accounting Services has experienced Chartered Accountants and we serve clients in Toronto and other cities in the GTA which include, North York, Thornhill, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.
Polina Presman, CPA, CA
Shani Marzin, CPA, CA
S&P Accounting Services LLP
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North York, ON, M3J 3G9
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