It seems we hear about victims of fake Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scams daily. Unfortunately, some scammers take advantage of stressed-out people (especially at tax time) who may not immediately recognize that they’re being scammed.
With new and sophisticated tactics appearing every day, it’s not that uncommon for people to be duped by a tax scam and it can happen to the best of us. You need to be cautious when dealing with so-called emails, texts, or phone calls coming from the CRA.
Be vigilant in protecting your personal information if someone initiates contact with you and then asks you to verify your identity by providing them with your social insurance number, bank account information, credit card numbers, or even passport numbers. These are all scams designed to steal your money and identity.
Is it real or fake? How to spot a CRA scam
To protect yourself, it’s important to be able to distinguish communication from the CRA and a tax or phishing scam. Legitimate CRA employees will identify themselves when they contact you. The employee will give you their name and phone number. Make sure the caller is a CRA employee before you give any information over the phone. This will protect you from giving money or personal information to a scammer.
You may receive a call from the CRA for questions about your taxes, offer support to your small business through the Liaison Officer Service, or even begin an audit.
They may ask you to verify you’re identity, asking for your full name, date of birth, address, or social insurance number.
The CRA will not employ high-pressure tactics to get you to provide your passport number, health card, or driver’s license.
The CRA will not demand immediate payment in the form of bitcoin, prepaid credit cards, e-transfer, or gift cards from retailers like Amazon or iTunes.
On top of that, the CRA will not leave hostile voicemails or use intimidating language, and threaten to send the police over to your residence and take you to jail.
If you are uncertain about the legitimacy of a call from the CRA ask the caller for a callback number to verify the call. Hang up then call the CRA. Explain the situation. If it is a real inquiry from the CRA they will be able to verify it.
By text message or instant messenger
The only time you will receive a text message from the CRA is to verify your identity through their new multi-factor authentication process. If you have opted to verify your identity through text, you will receive a one-time passcode to access your online accounts.
This is a text message that is always initiated when you are logging into any of your online accounts. If you receive a text message at any other time, you should delete it. If it seems legitimate and you have NOT tried logging into your account, contact the CRA.
The CRA will not contact you through an instant messaging app such as WhatsApp or Facebook and they do not use these methods to communicate with Canadian taxpayers.
If you receive a text or instant message claiming it is from the CRA, delete it. It’s likely a phishing attempt to obtain access to your bank account or other personal information.
Suppose you have registered for email correspondence and provided an email address in your CRA account. In that case, the CRA may send you an email alerting you when a new document or notice of assessment or reassessment is ready. To access these documents you will need to sign in to your CRA account.
The CRA could also send you an email with a link to a form or publication on the CRA website. But, they will only do this if you ask for it during a phone conversation with the CRA. This is the only time the CRA will ever send an email with a link.
The CRA will not ask you to click on an unsolicited link or ask you to fill out an online form looking for personal or financial details and you will never receive an email with a link for you to click to get your refund.
And, like the telephone, they will never email you looking for immediate payment by e-transfer, bitcoin, or prepaid credit cards.
The sender may use an email address that appears to be from the CRA, Interac, or a financial institution. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to forge an email address and this is known as email spoofing.
You could receive mail from the CRA asking you for information, such as the name of your bank. They could also send a notice of assessment or reassessment and ask you to make a payment through approved channels.
The CRA could even use the mail to initiate legal action to recover any money if you refuse to pay your taxes. Moreover, the CRA uses the mail to tell you it’s starting an audit process.
The CRA will not send you something in the mail asking you to meet up with them in person to take payment, demand immediate payment, or threaten to take you to jail.
When to be suspicious?
Red flags that suggest a caller is a scammer include (but are not limited to):
How to protect yourself?
There are several ways you can protect yourself from fake CRA scams.
What to do if you believe you’ve been scammed
The first thing you should do is contact your local police. Provide them with as much information as possible, including copies of correspondence sent and received.
If your Social Insurance Number has been stolen, contact Service Canada. For more information on protecting your Social Insurance Number, go to the Service Canada website.
If you believe your login information with the CRA has been compromised, contact the CRA. If you have support in place through a professional tax consultant have them call on your behalf. Once the CRA has been notified, they will confirm if your account has been compromised and they will take action to prevent the fraudulent use of your personal information.
The government also recommends reporting the scam or scam attempt (whether or not you are a victim) to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Connect with them online or by phone.
Want to report a potential scam?
You should report a scam if you suspect either of the following:
To report a scam, visit antifraudcentre.ca, or call. If you think you may be the victim of fraud or you unknowingly provided personal or financial information, contact all of the following:
You should contact the CRA if you:
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Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is intended to provide general information. The information does not consider your personal situation and is not intended to be used without consultation from accounting and financial professionals. Salman Rundhawa and Filing Taxes will not be held liable for any problems that arise from the usage of the information provided on this page.