The Canada Revenue Agency tax scam has been around for years.
It’s been widely advertised in the news — scammers claiming to be from the CRA, only to milk the victim’s bank account once they get their personal information.
Stacey Hubbard of Kelowna, who admits she’s behind with her taxes because of health reasons, recently received a phone call from someone claiming to be from the CRA. She says she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“When I got the phone call, they (the CRA) were being really aggressive, saying I needed to borrow money from my family. When I said I had been in the hospital, they said: ‘Well, if you were in the hospital, then obviously (you) had help financially there so you should be able to ask them.’ They asked me to go to the bank and get a loan. They were just unbelievably aggressive,” Hubbard said.
Knowing that the CRA scam was making the rounds, Hubbard asked for proof — she wanted to see it in print.
Shortly after, she got a letter from the CRA, but she says it didn’t look right so she took the letter to the CRA in person.
“I went down to the office, and they looked at the letters and said: ‘No, this is a scam. The address is wrong, the numbers are wrong, the letterhead is crooked.'”
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Convinced she was dealing with a scam, Hubbard filed a complaint with the Kelowna RCMP. She says the RCMP told her that what she was dealing with was, in fact, a CRA scam.
But she soon found out the phone call she had received from someone claiming to be from the CRA was legitimate, as her bank accounts were frozen.
“When I called the CRA, I thought I was calling to say: ‘Hey, the scammers have one step further, now they’ve frozen my account,’ just for them to now tell me, ‘Oh, no. Those letters weren’t a scam,'” Hubbard said.
The CRA couldn’t comment on Hubbard’s file because of privacy reasons.
Meanwhile, Hubbard says she remains in tax limbo with no access to her money and says the whole situation could have been avoided had she received the right information from the CRA and the RCMP.
“I feel like I just keep shaking myself because I just don’t think this can be true,” she said.
How to tell the difference
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.
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.
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
The CRA does, indeed, call Canadians who owe tax to the government. 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.
But the CRA says 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.
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.
—With files from Rahul Kalvapalle, Global News