CRA scammers ramping up efforts during COVID-19 lockdown

 

April is typically synonymous with taxes. However, there’s nothing typical about 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has mostly shut down businesses, and the subsequent self-quarantine and social distancing guidelines from all levels of government have forced the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to make some deadline alterations.

For individual Canadians, the deadline to file your 2019 return has been extended from April 30 to June 1. The deadline to pay any amounts owed has been extended to September.

Scammers looking to exploit the vulnerability and financial uncertainty of Canadians during this time, however, are still operating according to schedule. Emails and phone calls from people claiming to be from the CRA are telling people that they could be in for a large return. All they need to do is supply their address, social insurance number, and often times their banking information and passport number.

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

These are scams and taxpayers should never respond to these fraudulent communications or click on any of the links provided.”

As a result, the Canadian Revenue Agency has laid out the following guidelines:

Phone

The CRA may

  • verify your identity by asking for personal information such as your full name, date of birth, address and account, or social insurance number
  • ask for details about your account, in the case of a business enquiry
  • call you to begin an audit process
  • call you to offer free tax help for your small business

The CRA will never

  • ask for information about your passport, health card, or driver’s license
  • demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others
  • use aggressive language or threaten you with arrest or sending the police
  • leave voicemails that are threatening or give personal or financial information

Email

The CRA may

  • notify you by email when a new message or a document, such as a notice of assessment or reassessment, is available for you to view in secure CRA portals such as My Account, My Business Account, or Represent a Client
  • email you a link to a CRA webpage, form, or publication that you ask for during a telephone call or a meeting with an agent (this is the only case where the CRA will send an email containing links)

The CRA will never

  • give or ask for personal or financial information by email and ask you to click on a link
  • email you a link asking you to fill in an online form with personal or financial details
  • send you an email with a link to your refund
  • demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others
  • threaten you with arrest or a prison sentence

Mail

The CRA may

  • ask for financial information such as the name of your bank and its location
  • send you a notice of assessment or reassessment
  • ask you to pay an amount you owe through any of the CRA’s payment options
  • take legal action to recover the money you owe, if you refuse to pay your debt
  • write to you to begin an audit process
  • write to you to offer free tax help for your small business

The CRA will never

  • set up a meeting with you in a public place to take a payment
  • demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others
  • threaten you with arrest or a prison sentence

Text/instant messaging

The CRA never uses text messages or instant messaging such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to communicate with taxpayers under any circumstance. If a taxpayer receives a text or instant message claiming to be from the CRA, they are scams!

When in doubt, ask yourself

  • Why is the caller pressuring me to act immediately? Am I certain the caller is a CRA employee?
  • Did I file my tax return on time? Have I received a notice of assessment or reassessment saying I owe tax?
  • Have I received written communication from the CRA by email or mail about the subject of the call?
  • Does the CRA have my most recent contact information, such as my email and address?
  • Is the caller asking for information I would not give in my tax return or that is not related to the money I owe the CRA?
  • Did I recently send a request to change my business number information?
  • Do I have an installment payment due soon?
  • Have I received a statement of account about a government program I owe money to, such as employment insurance or Canada Student Loans?

How to protect yourself from identity theft

  • Never provide personal information through the Internet or by email. The CRA does not ask you to provide personal information by email. 
  • Be suspicious if you are ever asked to pay taxes or fees to the CRA on lottery or sweepstakes winnings. You do not have to pay taxes or fees on these types of winnings. These requests are scams.
  • Keep your access codes, user ID, passwords, and PINs secret.
  • Keep your address current with all government departments and agencies.
  • Choose your tax preparer carefully! Make sure you choose someone you trust and check their references. Always review your return, agree with the content before filing, and follow up to make sure you receive your notice of assessment since it contains important financial and personal information that belongs to you.
  • Monitor your tax accounts by registering for My Account or My Business Account. Once registered, sign up for email notifications (account alerts), which will notify you of changes made to your accounts (e.g. change in address or direct deposit information) or if paper mail from the CRA was returned.
  • Before supporting any charity, use the CRA website to find out if the charity is registered and get more information on the way it does business.
  • Be careful before you click on links in any email you receive. Some criminals may be using a technique known as phishing to steal your personal information when you click on the link.
  • Caller ID is a useful function. However, the information displayed can be altered by criminals. Never use only the displayed information to confirm the identity of the caller whether it be an individual, a company or a government entity.
  • Protect your social insurance number. Don’t use it as a piece of ID and never reveal it to anyone unless you are certain the person asking for it is legally entitled to that information. If an organization asks for your social insurance number, ask if it is legally required to collect it, and if not, offer other forms of ID.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycle and ask about any missing account statements or suspicious transactions.
  • Shred unwanted documents or store them in a secure place. Make sure that documents with your name and SIN are secure.
  • Immediately report lost or stolen credit or debit cards.
  • Carry only the ID you need.
  • Do not write down any passwords or carry them with you.
  • Ask a trusted neighbour to pick up your mail when you are away or ask that a hold be placed on delivery.

Those looking to report a scam can do so at the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre, or by phone: 1-888-495-8501

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