How To Avoid The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Phone Scam

As a former Canada Revenue Agency Business Collections employee – almost 11-years – from collector to Resource Officer and Manager, I understand the fear people have when they receive calls from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

I also understand how scary it is when someone calls you, or leaves a recorded message for you, claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and demanding payment with threats of jail or immediate legal actions. I’ve been called as have many of my clients.

With a little knowledge and understanding of the CRA and the people who work there, I am going to list 10 signs that every Canadian needs to be made aware of in order to not be caught up in this scheme.

10 Facts Every Canadian NEEDS to Know About the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

 

10. Yelling and Screaming are NOT permitted, nor tolerated.

Regardless of what you have heard or experienced, the people who work in the Canada Revenue Agency are everyday people like you and I. If we yelled and screamed at our “client base” we would be disciplined or fired. They are no different.

9. Threats are NOT allowed.

The staff at the CRA will not threaten you with jail time, to send in the Sheriff, have you deported or to take every penny that you have.  Even is the call is not a scam you do not have to tolerate any threats from anyone at the CRA.

If you have been evading the paying of taxes, you already know that you could be charged and that jail time is possible. Any other type of collection action usually comes with pre-warning by a letter, Notice of Assessment or is started once you file / pay your taxes.

The CRA will not seize your principal residence!  Your cottage, rental properties, maybe, but house you and your kids live in… No.

8.  The Element of Surprise

If the call catches you by surprise, AND the person on the end of the phone is screaming at you, threatening to take your

7. Ask Questions.

In the instance you get a live person on the phone and they are trying to give you a hard time and force you to pay money, turn the conversation back to them and ask lots of questions. Ask them what the account number / social insurance number is, what periods or years the debt relates to (the debt they want you to pay). Ask them for a break-down of the total tax owing and the amount of penalties and interest – either the total amount or broken down by period or year. (They have this at their finger tips). Ask them what Tax Office they are calling from, and what the address and phone number is at that office. Ask them to send you a remittance voucher so that you can make that payment at the bank.

6. Defer

Tell them that while you would love to speak to them, you have an accountant who handles all your tax information and you would like to take down their information so your representative can call them back.

5. Do NOT Agree to Pay anything over the phone!

This rule applies not only to the CRA but to anyone else who ever calls your home / phone asking for money. Never, ever make a payment over the phone with your credit card.

4. Receipt Please!

If you are self-employed, you understand the importance of getting and keeping receipts.  Why would you buy a pre-paid gift card or charge card to send to some stranger who is not going to give you a receipt for payment?

You wouldn’t.

The CRA has recently allowed payment of some taxes by credit / debit card.  They will likely NEVER accept payment via gift cards, etc.

3. If you get such a call, hang up and report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre can be found online at http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or toll free at 1-888-495-8501.

If you believe you may be the victim of fraud or have given personal or financial information unwittingly, contact your local police service.

2.  Confirm, Confirm, Confirm.

If you want to confirm the authenticity of a CRA telephone number, call the CRA by using the numbers on its Telephone numbers page. The number for business-related calls is 1-800-959-5525. The number for calls about individual concerns is 1-800-959-8281

1.  The CRA NEVER…

Requests prepaid credit cards;

Asks for information about your passport, health card, or driver’s licence;

Leaves personal information on your answering machine!

Asks you to leave a message containing your personal information on an answering machine.

Emails seeking information or asking for payment.

 

 

So when in doubt, ask yourself the following questions:

Is there a reason that the CRA may be calling?

Do I have a tax balance outstanding?

Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?

Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?

Are they too mean / demanding / aggressive?

 

It’s always better to defer the conversation than make the mistake of giving information or money to criminals.

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Beware of Fraudulent Communications! The CRA Does NOT Randomly Request Personal Information.

Canada Revenue Agency
Canada Revenue Agency (Photo credit: John Bristowe)

The CRA issued a warning, as the periodically have to do, to make sure that citizens are aware of some scams being committed via email, phone and mail whereby someone is pretending to be the CRA and they are asking for personal information such as a credit card number, social insurance number (SIN), bank information or passport information.

As in EVERY other situation, if someone, anyone asks you for this information, you should NOT be providing it.

If the CRA wants to contact you for information they already know all this information and will not be asking you for it.  Even worse is the fact that the fraudsters are arguing that this personal information is needed so that the taxpayer can receive a refund or benefit payment.

Again, the CRA knows this information and if you are eligible for a program or benefit, they will either enroll you in it automatically or they will send you a letter asking you to call the CRA general enquiries line.

Another common scam refers the person to a Web site resembling the CRA’s Web site where the person is asked to verify their identity by entering  personal information.

Again, this is not true.  The CRA website is http://www.cra.gc.ca where the “gc” stands for “government Canada” and the “ca” represents that the website is Canadian.  If the fraudster persists, please hang up and call the general enquiries line to confirm or call the RCMP (details below).

So just to confirm, and this is from the CRA website;

The CRA does not do the following:

  • The CRA will not request personal information of any kind from a taxpayer by email.
  • The CRA will not divulge taxpayer information to another person unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer.
  • The CRA will not leave any personal information on an answering machine.

When in doubt, ask yourself the following:

  • Am I expecting additional money from the CRA?
  • Does this sound too good to be true?
  • Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?
  • Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?
  • How did the requester get my email address?
  • Am I confident I know who is asking for the information?

The CRA will continue to post notifications of fraudulent communications as they become aware of them and encourages you to check their Web site should you have concerns.

Examples You will find examples of a fraudulent letter, emails, and online refund forms from the CRA’s website in the links provided.  Notice how shoddy and unprofessional the request are.  As per telephone calls, the CRA will occasionally leave messages for taxpayers on their answering machines, including a callback number, and a request for the taxpayer to have their SIN handy when they call, however, it is important to note that not all telephone messages claiming to be from the CRA are genuine.  If you have any doubt and wish to verify the authenticity of a CRA telephone number, agent name, or location. you should contact the CRA directly by using the numbers on our Telephone numbers page.  For business-related calls, contact 1-800-959-5525 and for individual concerns, contact 1-800-959-8281.

If you have responded to a fraudulent communication and have become a victim of fraud, please contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by email at info@antifraudcentre.ca or call 1-888-495-8501.

Be careful when giving out personal information to anyone regardless of where they claim to work.  The CRA won’t get offended.  They’ll try again a different way if necessary.