Here’s how to tell between a genuine CRA phone call and a scammer

Click to play video: '4,000 victims have reported losses over $15.2 M over CRA scams: RCMP'
4,000 victims have reported losses over $15.2 M over CRA scams: RCMP
WATCH: RCMP says 4,000 victims have reported losses over $15.2 M over CRA scams – Nov 7, 2018

Your phone rings, you answer it and the person on the other end of line claims that they’re with the Canada Revenue Agency and they’re calling to discuss your account. Do you hang up or hear them out?

It’s a quandary that’s on the minds of many Canadians following a rash of scam calls that have swindled 4,000 taxpayers out of some $15 million, according to the RCMP.

The scammers, who often call from clandestine call centres in India, typically operate by telling their victims that they owe back taxes and should pay up immediately if they want to avoid serious consequences including imprisonment.

So ubiquitous are these scam attempts that legitimate CRA agents are finding it increasingly difficult to reach scam-wary Canadians who hang up on them and refuse to return their calls.

READ MORE: Canadians, wary of scams, refusing to speak with real CRA agents

In a bid to help Canadians differentiate cheaters from credible callers, the CRA has now published a checklist outlining the reasons for which it may contact you, as well as red flags pointing to a scam call.

Story continues below advertisement

Reasons why the CRA may contact you by phone

  • To verify your identity by asking for personal information such as your name, date of birth, address, account or social insurance number
  • To ask for details about your account
  • To initiate an audit process

Things the CRA will never do on the phone

  • Use aggressive language or threaten to arrest you
  • Leave threatening voicemails
  • Demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards and gift cards from the likes of iTunes and Amazon.
  • Ask for information about your passport, health card or driver’s license
Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

WATCH: RCMP have busted 3 call centres in India over CRA phone scams

Click to play video: 'RCMP have busted 3 call centres in India over CRA phone scams'
RCMP have busted 3 call centres in India over CRA phone scams

The CRA does indeed call Canadians who owe tax to the government. But they don’t use aggressive language or threaten to throw you in jail if you don’t pay up ASAP in bitcoin or iTunes gift cards.

Story continues below advertisement

“A collections officer may call you to discuss your file and ask you to make a payment. In this case, you may need to provide some information about your household financial situation,” the CRA says.

Three $10 iTunes gift cards. The Canadian Press Images / Mario Beauregard

An officer may also call you if you didn’t file your income tax or benefit return or if authorities want to follow up on your tax and benefit documents.

Small businesses and self-employed individuals can also expect phone calls from the CRA offering free Liaison Officer services to help them understand their tax obligations. You can read more about the Liaison Officer program here.

READ MORE: Another 16 call centres linked to CRA scam busted in India

Canadians have the right to ask CRA agents for their name, phone number and office location and tell agents that they’d like to verify their identity before proceeding with the call.

Story continues below advertisement

If you’ve already completed a call and want some extra peace of mind, you can find out if the person who called you works for the CRA by calling 1-800-959-8281 (for individuals), 1-800-959-5525 (for businesses) and 1-866-864-5823 (for calls related to student loans and employment insurance).

WATCH: Tax arrest scam costs Toronto-area man $10K

Click to play video: 'Tax scam costs Toronto-area man $10K'
Tax scam costs Toronto-area man $10K

While much of the attention surrounding tax scams centres around phone calls, scams can also be perpetrated via other forms of communication.

To see the CRA’s complete set of tips on identifying genuine phone calls, emails, mails and text messages — as well as tell-tale signs of scammer contact — click here.

READ MORE: U.S. busts massive India-based call centre scam that stole hundreds of millions

If you detect a scam attempt, you can report it by calling 1-888-495-8501 or online at If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, contact your local police service, your bank and credit reporting agencies.

Story continues below advertisement

Sponsored content