Scammers: How to Tell Who’s Who and Keep Your Identity Safe!
Unfortunately, every year thousands of Canadians fall prey to tax scams. Taking hard-earned money out of the pockets of Canadian families and our economy. Many so-called scammers disguise themselves quite well as representatives from Canada Revenue Agency (aka CRA). In some cases, these individuals have accessed large amounts of personal information on a tax payer prior to contact, further backing up their claim of ‘working for our government’. The good news is there are a few ways you can protect yourself against such situations.
The number one way to protect yourself as a taxpayer is to educate yourself on the methods of contact, and the extent to which the government will go in order to get your attention. If the CRA has reason, there is a need to do so. They may try to contact you for one, but not limited to, the following cases:
- If you owe past taxes
- If you have not kept your tax filings up to date
- Your tax return was select for audit review to verify accuracy
- Questions in regards to documentation submitted
Contact is established in one of three ways; by phone, your online My Account, or an official letter. Texting messaging is an immediate signal to a scam operation, as the CRA will never use this as a means to contact a taxpayer.
If contact is made by phone, the beginning of the conversation should always start with the representative identifying themselves to you, including a badge/identification number. You may then be asked to verify personal information for identity security such as name, address, SIN, and date of birth. The reason this information is required is for the agent to ensure they are speaking to the proper taxpayer, and allows CRA to try to maintain security with your account.
‘My Account’ notifications will come via email; however, it will only be a notification there is mail in your CRA My Account mailbox. CRA will not email a request for personal information or request you log into a certain link to provide such details.
Official CRA letters will be mailed to a taxpayer’s last known address. The letter should include your name, address, and blocked-out SIN. The address should be showing as coming from your current tax centre. The letter should state the reason behind the request, and include a CRA representative name and contact information.
All conversations, depending on the nature of the situation, can range from a number of requests; such as, additional income tax information, audit procedures, and payment arrangements for taxes in arrears. The CRA will never ask for payment over the phone via credit card, request you send bitcoin to a certain recipient, give you direct deposit for an account, or ask that you send an Interac e-Transfer. The most common methods of payment include post-dated cheques sent directly to your tax centre, online banking as a payee under Canada Revenue Agency, or through the CRA website – my payment.
The more we educate ourselves on what to expect from our government, the easier it becomes to decipher the scammers from legitimate CRA representatives. If you ever have a doubt in your mind over the authenticity of a claim, contact your tax preparer for verification, or call the CRA general tax line (1-800-959-8281) and inquire into your tax account.
If you believe you are already a victim of a scam or identity theft, go online to antifraudcentre.ca or call 1-888-495-8501 for further information. You can, and should, also contact your local police service, bank, and credit bureau to ensure your identity has not been comprised and that there is an awareness created about the possibly of a scam being run in your community.
Let us all be like Magruff, and take a bite out of crime!
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