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Falling for a CRA scam, and how to protect yourself

by UFile Team Équipe ImpôtExpert | Apr 29, 2020   Comments:

UFile blog - CRA scam

You just got a call from a “CRA agent” telling you that you owe money to the government and that you have to pay off the debt quickly or there will be legal consequences.

Can this be legitimate? How can you avoid falling for a scam?

How the scam works

The scammers might contact you in one of four ways: by phone, by email, by mail or by text message. They typically use two scenarios to scam you: they either claim that you owe the government money and criminal charges could be filed against you (phone scam), or they claim that the CRA owes you a refund and you should collect it (other three methods).

In the phone scam, they employ pressure tactics to get you to pay a fictitious amount owing to the CRA. They will threaten you with criminal prosecution if you don’t pay.

With the other contact methods, the scammers try to hook you with a new refund that the CRA allegedly owes you. They will try to get you to give them personal information such as your social insurance number, bank account and credit card information. The scammers will usually direct you to an online refund form that looks a lot like a page from the CRA’s official site.

How to recognize a scam

The CRA has published a guide outlining what you can expect when they do contact you. The tables below summarize this guide by contact method.

By phone

The CRA may

The CRA will never

verify your identity by asking for personal information such as your full name, date of birth, address and account, or social insurance number

ask for information about your passport, health card, or driver’s licence

ask for details about your account, in the case of a business enquiry

demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others

call you to begin an audit process

use aggressive language or threaten you with arrest or sending the police

leave voicemails that are threatening or give personal or financial information

 

By email

The CRA may

The CRA will never

notify you by email when a new message or a document, such as a notice of assessment or reassessment, is available for you to view in secure CRA portals such as My Account, My Business Account, or Represent a Client

give or ask for personal or financial information by email and ask you to click on a link

email you a link to a CRA webpage, form, or publication that you asked for during a telephone call or a meeting with an agent (this is the only case where the CRA will send an email containing links)

email you a link asking you to fill in an online form with personal or financial details

send you an email with a link to your refund

demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others

threaten you with arrest or a prison sentence

 

By mail

The CRA may

The CRA will never

ask for financial information such as the name of your bank and its location

set up a meeting with you in a public place to take a payment

send you a notice of assessment or reassessment

demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others

ask you to pay an amount you owe through any of the CRA’s payment options

threaten you with arrest or a prison sentence

take legal action to recover the money you owe if you refuse to pay your debt

write to you to begin an audit process

 

By text message/instant messaging

The CRA never uses text messages or instant messaging such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to communicate with taxpayers under any circumstance.

 

The tables above provide all the information needed to determine whether or not the person contacting you is a scammer.

What to do if you were scammed

The first thing to do is to call your local police. After all, this is financial fraud and it must be reported to them.

If your social insurance number (SIN) has been stolen, contact Service Canada as well.

If your CRA ID and password have been compromised (see online payment form above), contact the CRA to reset your online services portal with My Account.

Some home and renters insurance policies cover certain costs related to identity theft resulting from such scams. Check your policy or call your insurance company to find out if you are covered.

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