March is fraud prevention month, and with tax season in full swing, police are reminding residents to be cautious and protect themselves from tax related scams and frauds that tend to circulate more frequently this time of year.
One particular scam making its rounds this time of year is the commonly known Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scam. The scam is one that tricks a victim into either paying a sum of money, or disclosing personal or financial information of a sensitive nature, such as their social insurance number.
In most cases, the scam starts when the victim receives a phone call from someone claiming to be from the CRA and is told there is an outstanding tax amount due.
The scammer will request immediate payment by credit card, prepaid gift cards, e-transfer or some other quick form of monetary payment. The fraudster will often pressure the victim into paying by threatening arrest, jail or financial sanctions if they do not comply.
Potentially, there could be an immediate monetary loss, but disclosing personal or sensitive information to these scammers can also lead to identity theft or other forms of fraud.
“The CRA scam is not new, but at this time of year with tax returns on our minds and to-do lists, it tends to pop up a lot more often,” Vernon North Okanagan RCMP media relations officer Const. Chris Terleski said. “As is the case with any scam, education and awareness are key to prevention. The earlier you are able to recognize you are being targeted, the quicker you can take action, and the better chance you have of being able to shut down the scam and not become a victim.”
Tips to avoid CRA and other financial scams:
• you can verify the legitimacy of any communication by contacting the CRA directly at 1-800-959-8281;
• the CRA will never request prepaid credit cards, gift cards, or cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin as payment;
• it will not send emails or text messages containing a link to a payment request or tax refund;
• the CRA will never ask for information about your passport, health services card, driver’s license or social security number;
• the CRA will never leave personal information on your voicemail service;
• if you’ve shared personal information, contact Equifax and Trans Union to place fraud alerts on your account;
• if you’ve shared banking information with a scammer, contact your financial institution to place alerts on your accounts.
As with any scam, if you have not provided personal information or lost any money, you do not need to contact the police. Report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online at antifraudcentre.ca or by calling 1-888-495-8501.
When in doubt, discuss it with a family member or trusted friend. Never rush into a decision because someone is pressuring you.