Some scams come and go, but the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scam is not only still here, it’s ramping up now that income tax season has begun and Canadians have tax returns and T4s on their mind.
Canadians continue to fall victim to the scam, which has claimed tens of millions of dollars — most of which is never recovered — from unwitting residents. It often starts with an automated call claiming to be from the CRA, which claims that the victim has an outstanding tax bill, and faces immediate arrest or deportation if it is not paid. If the call is returned, or a certain number button is pushed, an actual person answers, who tells the caller what forms of payment are accepted and how to pay.
Phone numbers can look as if they come from Ottawa, or can appear to be local, to trick people into taking the call. Some people report being called up to five times a day from five different numbers. The scammers can be very convincing, and will try to pressure you into making a payment before you have time to think too hard about it.
Be aware that the CRA will never phone you and be aggressive or threatening, or tell you that you face arrest or deportation. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the CRA, hang up and do not call back, even if they have legitimate-sounding “facts” and file numbers. While the scammers sound convincing, in many cases they do not even know your name until you give it to them, and will then pretend they knew it all along.
Be suspicious if a caller who says they are from the CRA threatens you, tells you that you will be deported, sends you follow-up text messages or emails, or suggests you pay via gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. If you have doubts about the status of your tax bill, go to the CRA website and contact them directly.
A variation on the CRA scam is getting an email saying that you have a tax refund waiting to be claimed. The catch? You need to give them personal information so they can send your “refund”, with the information often being used for identity theft.
This is a classic example of an online phishing tax scam. The email includes a link; the communication is enticing and encourages the recipient to click; and the link is likely to take you a website controlled by the scammer and not the CRA. Emails from the CRA will only be notifications; they do not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message, or social media. The CRA will also never include links, and will not request personal or financial information, PINs, passwords, or similar access information for credit cards.