How to spot a CRA phone scam this tax season
It’s tax season again, which means it’s also open season for scammers posing as Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employees to con Canadians out of their money and personal information.
Sometimes the agency responsible for administering Canada’s tax laws does call to discuss taxpayers’ cases. Typically, the purpose of the call will be to review your income tax and benefit return, including GST, HST, T4 or T5 information. In most cases, such a call will be a routine check. The CRA also occasionally calls small business owners or the self-employed to offer free tax help through its Contact Officer service.
A fraudster posing as a CRA agent may use a scope of tactics – from threats to the promise of a refund, to intimidate or lure the victim into sending money or sharing bank, credit card or other personal information.
Knowing when you’re talking to a real agent and not a criminal posing as one could be the key to avoiding scams this year.
Here are some steps recommended by the CRA that you can take to protect yourself this tax season.
MAKE SURE THE CALLER IS A CRA AGENT
A legitimate CRA officer will identify himself by name and, if requested, provide a callback number.
If in doubt, do not share any information over the phone without first confirming that the caller is a CRA employee. Here’s how. First, tell the caller that you want to verify their identity. Ask for and write down their name, phone number and office location.
Then end the call and verify that the information they provided is legitimate by contacting the CRA.
Individuals can reach the CRA at 1-800-959-8281 in the provinces, or 1-866-426-1527 in the territories. Businesses can contact the CRA at 1-800-959-5525 in the provinces or 1-866-841-1876 in the territories.
Once you can confirm that the caller is a CRA employee, you can call them back to discuss the reason for their call.
Telephone lines for personal tax, benefits and business calls offer an automated callback service when the wait time reaches a certain threshold. Any recall request generates a four-digit confirmation number that a CRA officer will read at the time of recall. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a CRA employee while waiting for a callback, make sure the caller knows the callback number.
LOOK FOR THESE RED FLAGS
If a caller claiming to be a CRA employee is actually a scammer, there will usually be some telltale signs. These red flags include, but are not limited to:
• The caller does not provide proof of employment with the CRA, such as their name, office location or number
• Caller pressures you to act quickly, uses aggressive language, or threatens to arrest or call the police
• The caller asks you to pay with a prepaid credit card, gift card, cryptocurrency, or other unusual payment method
• The caller asks for information that you would not have entered on your tax return, or that is not related to your debt to the CRA. For example, it may ask for a credit card number.
• Caller recommends applying for benefits. They may offer to apply for benefits on your behalf. Do not share any information with the caller who offers to do so. Instead, apply for benefits directly through the appropriate Government of Canada website or by phone.
Scammers also try to trick people into clicking on malicious links in fake emails and text messages. For more examples of CRA-related scams, visit CRA scam alert page.
REPORT A SCAM SCAM
If you believe you may have been a victim of fraud or have provided personal information to a fraudster, report suspected fraud by calling the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center at 1-888-495-8501 or visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center page and follow the steps to report fraud.
You should also contact your local police department, your financial institution and the appropriate credit reporting agencies.
Contact CRA if you believe your CRA account has been compromised; you will find changes you did not request to your banking, address, business or personal information; you find a benefit application made for you without your knowledge; or you wish to disable or enable online access to CRA’s login services.
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