The CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) scams continue.
There was a recent raid and arrests in India at the end of October of one site that was making these scam calls to many Canadians. They exist and many others exist because they are successful at convincing some Canadians that we owe Canada Revenue Agency money.
Though the scam itself has existed in India for close to a decade, these sorts of police raids are exceedingly rare. The October arrests mark the first in two years. But there are likely many more of these centres, so expect more scam calls to continue.
The scammers are very convincing and very scary to some people. Even I have received a message on my home phone. They are very threatening and very persistent.
They make you believe that you owe CRA money and that you will be arrested and brought to court. They say you can avoid that if you make a payment.
The CRA scam typically begins with a robo-call claiming to be from the CRA and telling the recipient that they owe taxes. The target is informed that they must call back -- or face arrest and imprisonment.
Call spoofing technology is used to make it appear the number is in Canada, and sometimes even originating from a legitimate CRA contact centre.
Those who call back are subjected to further threats, but then offered a one-time chance to pay and settle the matter.
Thousands of Canadians have done exactly that over the past several years, at an estimated cost of more than $10 million, falling prey to the dozens of call centres using the same scheme.
The victims are often the most vulnerable -- the elderly or immigrants to Canada. But almost anyone can be a victim since the calls are very believable.
While the RCMP has scored some limited success with the latest raids, they emphasize prevention over prosecution. In other words, they want Canadians to know what the scam sounds like so they can avoid becoming a victim.
On the CRA website, there is information about knowing how to recognize a scam; I have used most of my own wording:
First, check your most recent Notice of Assessment you received last Spring after you filed your 2017 Income Tax Return. Was there an amount owing listed on the Notice? If not, it's very unlikely you owe CRA anything.
If you really are not sure, then call CRA at their general inquiries line: 1.800.959.8281. It can be difficult to reach them at times (especially Mondays and Tuesdays), so keep trying. Or give our office a call. If we have your authorization on file, we can look up information on your CRA account. If you have not dealt with us before, with your signed written authorization, we normally can quickly access your CRA account to find out if you owe them any money. Don't hesitate to contact us for your own peace of mind.
Don't believe the scammers. And it's ok to hang up on them. Even if it happened to be a legitimate call from CRA, they are used to taxpayers hanging up on them. If we determine you do legitimately owe CRA money, I can contact them on your behalf to determine how much you owe and what your options are for repayment.
Some scams have been by email; even I received one. First look at the email (do not open any attachments). If it has any detailed information like saying how much you owe or how much your refund will be, this is a scam. Emails from Canada Revenue Agency NEVER include that information.
Legitimate emails from CRA only say "you have mail" and you need to log on to your CRA account to retrieve the mail.
Be very careful with your personal information. Do not provide it to anyone you do not know. And do not pay money to anyone just from a phone call.
If you are not sure, please feel free to contact our office. Whether you are a client or not, we will help you.
Anni Markmann is a personal income tax professional, a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging, and a Certified Financial Planner; living, working, and volunteering in our community. Contact us at 204.422.6631 or 36 Dawson Road in Ste Anne (near Co-op) or Info@SteAnneTaxService.ca