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• Mar. 18, 2024

Have you ever received a call purporting to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), alerting you that you have unpaid taxes that need to be paid immediately or you will be arrested?

Or perhaps you've been sent a text message or email purporting to be from the CRA that also contained a link where it said you could claim additional rebates or refunds?

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), these are just a couple of examples of what are known as "common CRA scams" where fraudsters pretend to be from the Agency in the hopes of misleading the victim to gain access to their money.

While Canadians can be targets of CRA scams anytime, the CAFC says many of these tactics tend to increase in appearance during tax season. While there are legitimate reasons the CRA may have to contact taxpayers by phone, email or mail, the Agency will not contact you in the manner described above.

So, what are some of the common CRA scams? Below we provide a breakdown on how some of the scams work and provide some tips on how to help protect yourself and your loved ones.

The GST/HST tax refund/credit text message or email

You or a loved one may receive a fraudulent text message or email that claims to be from the CRA. It requests that you reply or click on a link. You may then be asked to complete an application form by an urgent deadline in order to receive your tax refund or credit.

It's important to remember that the CRA will not ask you by text message or email for any personal information, bank information, or to make payments by e-transfers, gift cards or cryptocurrency.

The extortion phone call demanding payment through cryptocurrency or gift cards

The caller warns that you owe the government unpaid taxes and, if you don't pay up immediately, you will be arrested by the police. They may ask you to confirm your Social Insurance Number and then demand payment, which can include a request for cryptocurrency or gift cards.

Fraudsters typically use urgency and threats to try and trick their targets into sending money. In some cases, the fraudster may even suggest that the police are already en route to arrest the victim.

This scam is widespread and can target anyone who answers a phone. Newcomers to Canada who may not understand how the Canadian tax system works, as well as people who don’t speak English or French as a first language may be particularly vulnerable, according to the Government of Canada.

It's important to remember that the CRA will never use aggressive language, threaten arrest, or demand immediate payment over the phone.

Be on the lookout for phishing text messages that include images taken from Government of Canada social media accounts in an attempt to look legitimate. These scam messages can even go so far as to include a real phone number from the Agency in the hopes of making the message seem even more legitimate.

As stated on the CRA website, the CRA will not use text, instant messages or emails to start a conversation about your taxes or benefits and will not send you an email or text message asking you to click a link in the email/text to provide your personal or bank information to be able to receive a benefit payment.

How to help protect yourself

  • Hang up immediately if you receive a phone call that sounds suspicious.
  • Do not click on any links in suspicious text messages or emails and do not reply to any suspicious text messages or emails.
  • Tell your friends and family. While these may be common scams, many people still don’t know about them. Spreading the word can help prevent others from being scammed.
  • Always be wary. Any caller asking for your personal information over the phone or demanding action in a short timeframe should make you suspicious and is likely fraudulent. Do not provide them with any information about you.
  • If you get a call from an organization that sounds legitimate, but you aren't certain, it's best to hang up. You can then call the organization back to verify the call making sure that you first look up the number for the organization either online or, in the case of a bank or credit card company calling you about your credit or debit card, use the number on the back of your card.
  • The CRA will never ask you to make a payment via gift card or cryptocurrency.

If you think you've been the victim of a common CRA scam

Report it: If you or a family member has fallen victim to a scam, it is crucial to report it to your local police. You might also wish to report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre as well.

Talk about it: If you've fallen victim to a scam, or even received a call and hung up – tell your story. The more people who know about these scams, the fewer chances fraudsters have to defraud people.

    Fraudsters don’t discriminate, and nobody is immune to being targeted by a fraudster. But by staying informed and following the tips set out above, you can help reduce the likelihood of fraud happening to you.

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