Redress Risk Management (post until May 31/19)

Telltale signs will expose fraudulent CRA call

Tax season is here and Canadians seem to be receiving threatening calls and emails claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on a daily basis — but there are several ways for taxpayers to spot these scams, Toronto tax litigation lawyer David J. Rotfleisch tells

As the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) recently warned, CRA scams and other agency-related extortion threats have resulted in substantial financial losses for identified victims — a combined $2.49 million in 2015.

In the CRA scam, says the OPP, “the criminals extort money from their victims by telephone, mail, text message or email, a fraudulent communication that claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency requesting personal information such as a social insurance number, credit card number, bank account number, or passport number. Fraudsters impersonate the real CRA by telephone or by email. Fraudsters are either phishing for your identification or asking that outstanding taxes be paid by a money service business or by pre-paid debit/credit cards.

“They may insist that this personal information is needed so that the taxpayer can receive a refund or a benefit payment. Cases of fraudulent communication could also involve threatening or coercive language to scare individuals into paying fictitious debt to the CRA,” says the OPP.

As Rotfleisch, founding tax lawyer at Rotfleisch & Samulovitch Professional Corporation, explains, there seem to be warnings from the RCMP, CRA and the media every day, describing how individuals have been scammed out of thousands of dollars sent by either wire money transfers, prepaid credit cards or cash deposits into numbered accounts to someone claiming to represent the CRA. In many cases, the taxpayer has made the payment in order to avoid a threatened arrest and to pay off a phony CRA debt. 

“In some cases, the criminals have sent a taxi to take the taxpayer to a money transfer location. Our office received one of these pestering calls. We have also had clients contact us because they received suspicious calls and checked with us before making any payments,” says Rotfleisch.

Around tax time last year, the CRA warned of another scam involving a text message claiming to be from the agency, which told taxpayers that the taxman was sending them money via an INTERAC e-transfer, CTV News reported.

After the recipient clicked a link “to deposit your income tax return,” the fraudsters then asked for personal information, including social insurance numbers, as well as credit card and bank account information.

While the number of fraud attempts seems to be on the rise, Rotfleisch explains that there are a number of telltale signs that indicate the fraudulent nature of these scams, as well as steps individuals can take to restore their peace of mind.

First of all, he says, the CRA does not jail taxpayers for unpaid tax debts. 

“The CRA also does not demand payment of tax debts by wire transfer or by any method other than cheque or money order payable to CRA. The CRA always provides written statements on CRA forms showing taxes owing before initiating any collection actions. The CRA general enquiries contact number will confirm if you have a balance owing,” adds Rotfleisch. 

Ultimately, he says, if you have tax concerns and don't want to contact the CRA directly, you can speak to a tax lawyer who can do so on your behalf.

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