MONTREAL – Denisa Koudelka has relied on professionals to help her file her taxes for the last five years.
She always files on time and has never owed money to the government.
So, she was surprised when a man claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency called her, accusing her of tax fraud.
“I started panicking a little bit,” she said.
“He said I had not been doing my income taxes properly and I had not been entering the right amounts and I owed money.”
The man knew her name, place of work and even her address.
He accused her of knowingly falsifying her tax returns and said she owed the federal government almost $4,000.
Koudelka was the victim of identity theft three years ago, and has remained wary ever since.
She recorded the conversation and started asking the man questions, including what department he worked in and what his name was.
He started becoming aggressive.
He asked her if she filed her own taxes or used a third party.
When she told him she used H and R Block, he said the police were on their way to arrest her and then hung up.
“They are trying to get money. What they do is frighten people to try and extort money from them. I knew I had done nothing wrong, but I was kind of scared,” Koudelka said.
When she called the CRA, she was told the phone call was a scam.
Corporal Josée Rousseau of the RCMP’s anti-fraud department said police first started seeing the scam two years ago.
Callers work from boiler rooms and randomly phone people from purchased calling lists.
They tell their victims they’re from the CRA, and they owe money in unpaid taxes.
They’re usually aggressive and warn their victims that police will arrest them unless they send payment through a money transfer service like Western Union or Moneygram.
“If people do believe it and transfer the money, it disappears very quickly,” Rousseau said.
“But the CRA would never operate that way.”
The scam, however, is on the rise.
In 2014, the RCMP received 1,000 complaints nationwide.
So far this year, 5,000 complaints across Canada have been filed with victims losing $700,000 – that includes almost 400 people in Quebec who lost a combined $42,000.
But Rousseau said only about five per cent of fraud victims actually report the fraud, and those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.
The RCMP said taxpayers should know how the CRA works – they usually send letters in the mail first if there are any tax issues and they will send several follow up letters.
Rousseau said they never threaten to send in the police and would never ask for payment through a money transfer service like Western Union or Moneygram.
The RCMP said if people are concerned about a possible phone scam, they should call the CRA at 1-800-959-8281.
© 2015 Shaw Media