Beware Of Fake CRA Communications

March 16, 2018

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Fraudsters are targeting Canadian taxpayers by posing as agents from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), either by telephone, mail, text message or email. These phony communications can be disconcerting if you are on the receiving end. To protect yourself and your finances, you need to know how to recognize a scam and distinguish it from a legitimate CRA communication.

As these criminals become more brazen, the need to protect your personal information — such as your social insurance number, credit card number, bank account number and passport information — has become an even bigger priority for Canadians.

Identifying fake communications

Scammers often use language that is aggressive, threatening and, most importantly, designed to scare you into paying fictitious amounts. To prevent you from falling victim to this type of fraud, here are some points to consider if you receive any sort of communication that purports to be from the CRA.

Telephone communications

Don’t be surprised if fraudsters call your home, business or cell phone and tell you that you owe a large amount of unpaid taxes. To coerce you, they may even say that a criminal tax case has already been filed against you and urge you to call back on a fictitious hotline to avoid dire consequences. Often, the fraudsters demand that you provide them with your personal information or money in an unreasonably short time frame. This gives you little time to evaluate the legitimacy of their requests.

If you do receive a suspicious phone call that appears to be from the CRA, keep in mind that some scams involve caller ID spoofing, which allows a caller to disguise their identity by falsifying the information transmitted to your caller ID display. Because of this, you should never rely on the displayed caller information to confirm the identity of the caller.

As well, remember that if you do receive a phone call or voice message saying that you owe money to the CRA, you can confirm that this information is in fact correct by calling the CRA directly or by checking online using the My Account service. You should not provide any personal or financial information to the caller or leave it on an answering machine.

Mail, text or email communications

Phony communications by way of mail, text or email often urge taxpayers to visit a fake CRA website where they are asked to verify their identity by entering personal and financial information. Other fake communications may promise bogus tax refunds that can only be claimed after clicking on a link to a fraudulent website. You should note that the CRA will only send an email containing links while their agents are on the phone with a taxpayer who has called to request a form or a link to specific information.

The CRA will never:

  • send an email with a link and request that you divulge personal or financial information
  • ask for personal information of any kind by text message
  • request that you pay your tax liability with prepaid credit cards.

Remember that if you have signed up for online mail (available through My Account, My Business Account, and Represent a Client), the CRA will send a registration confirmation email to the address you provided for online mail service. The CRA will also send an email to the address you provided to notify you when new online mail can be viewed in the CRA's secure online services portal.

How you can respond

If you think that your CRA user ID or password has been unlawfully accessed, be sure to contact the CRA immediately. If they are able to confirm that your information has been compromised, they will act to ensure it is not used with CRA systems and processes. You can also ask the CRA to disable online access to your information on the CRA login services.

If you have unwittingly given out your personal or financial information as a result of fake CRA communications, contact your local police service.

Protect yourself

To help you properly identify scams, the CRA has posted samples of the more common ones, as well as transcripts of fraudulent communications, on their website. When it comes to communications from the CRA, exercising caution and ensuring that you never provide personal information online, by email, or over the phone can help protect you from fraud. Whether it is the promise of an unknown refund amount or the threat of an unpaid tax liability — if it doesn’t seem right to you, it probably isn’t, so trust your own judgment.

If you do receive a suspicious phone call or an email purporting to be from the CRA, do not hesitate to contact your BDO advisor to help you determine whether the CRA is in fact trying to get in touch with you.

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The information in this publication is current as of February 8, 2018.

This publication has been carefully prepared, but it has been written in general terms and should be seen as broad guidance only. The publication cannot be relied upon to cover specific situations and you should not act, or refrain from acting, upon the information contained therein without obtaining specific professional advice. Please contact BDO Canada LLP to discuss these matters in the context of your particular circumstances. BDO Canada LLP, its partners, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability or duty of care for any loss arising from any action taken or not taken by anyone in reliance on the information in this publication or for any decision based on it.