Is your phone ringing off the hook with fake calls from the “CRA”? Are you receiving Canadian Revenue Agency emails insisting you click on a link? Text messages promising a benefit payment or refund? Not only are these annoying, but they are all signs of scams!
In 2022, 57,000 Canadians lost more than $531 million to fraud, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. In comparison, in 2019, 45,000 people lost $96 million – an incredible increase that shows us these scam artists are getting bolder and better able to grift people out of higher sums of money!
That’s why we wanted to discuss some of the most common tax scams, how to discern imposters from the real CRA, and how to keep your money and information safe.
Common tax scam tactics
1. CRA phone scams: the automated phone call
“The reason behind this call is to notify you that we have registered a criminal case against your name concerning a tax evasion and tax fraud in the federal court house.”
An unfamiliar number will call, and an automated voice will announce that you are under investigation by Revenue Canada or a similar message. They tell you that they will put you on with an agent, where they will try to get your personal information. There are a few variations:
- You have a compromised SIN number
- You have an outstanding case against you
- You owe back taxes
- You have unpaid balances
- You committed a financial crime
They threaten that if you do not speak to them immediately, you'll be arrested, fined or even deported. The scammers may request payment through money service businesses, Bitcoin or prepaid cards/gift cards like iTunes, Google Play or Steam cards.
Luckily, there are some simple ways to determine actual CRA calls from scams.
- The CRA is a bureaucratic (see also: mildly boring) institution. They will never use an aggressive, intimidating or threatening tone or leave voicemails asking for personal information. If the actual CRA calls, it will generally be to discuss your specific case details, not threaten you with legal action.
- The CRA does not ask for immediate payment, especially via phone. Their first call is usually to sort out information about your return or any discrepancies.
- The CRA will never ask for gift cards under any circumstances.
How do you know it’s the CRA? See these tips to help you verify if they’re the real deal.
View sample telephone scams on the Canadian Revenue website.
2. CRA scam emails: the suspicious email
You received $458.00 (CAD) from Canada Revenue Agency.
>> Deposit your money
Expires: July 28, 2017
Scammers often send phishing emails requesting personal information or financial details. These emails may include official-looking logos and links that lead to fake websites designed to collect sensitive information.
The CRA scam email may ask for immediate payment or suggest that you have a pending refund. These emails often sound more official and do a better job masking their scam-iness than calls or text messages. Subject lines include payment notifications or try to incite a sense of urgency by saying “IMMEDIATE.”
Email is a method of communication used by the CRA, but only under one very particular circumstance – to notify you that you have a message waiting in your legitimate CRA portal. Here are other ways to determine a scam email from a real CRA communication email:
- Take a look at the From field in the email. The name might say Team Canada or the Canadian Revenue Agency, but what is the actual email address? This will often show up as a randomized series of characters. Emails sent from the CRA’s email notification service will have the sender name Canada Revenue Agency / Agence du Revenu du Canada.
- The CRA will only disclose important information in emails or include links if you have already explicitly spoken to an agent on the phone, and they said they would follow up with links or forms.
- As with the phone, the CRA will never demand immediate payment through an email link or in the form of gift cards.
View sample fraudulent emails on the Canadian Revenue website.
3. CRA text message scams
You have received $493 from the Canada Revenue Agency last year for your taxes. Please fill in the following online form:
Similar to phishing emails, criminals may send text messages claiming to be from the CRA. They’ll ask you to click on links or provide personal and financial information. If an account claiming to be the CRA ever reaches out through text message, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, it is a fake account.
The Canadian Revenue Agency will never slide into your DMs or personal electronic devices. The CRA only communicates via in-platform messages on the official CRA platform, official Government of Canada mail or by phone. If you receive any CRA message this way, it’s fake.
View sample fraudulent text messages on the Canadian Revenue website.
4. CRA mail fraud
Some scams involve sending letters or notices that appear to be from the CRA, demanding payments or personal information.
Does the CRA still send physical mail? Yes. Are there occasional mail scams? Sadly, also, yes. Like the other methods in our article, there are a few ways to discern real CRA mail from fake:
- The CRA will never ask to meet in person or for immediate payment to an individual.
- Look for a contact number, email address or other markers on the mail that indicate where to contact a CRA representative. If those are there, run a quick Google search of the number or contact email to confirm that it is the CRA, and then call to get more details before complying with any requests in the letter.
View sample fraudulent letters on the Canadian Revenue website.
5. CRA fake refund scams
Scammers may contact you, claiming you are eligible for a tax refund. You’ll be asked to provide personal and banking information to facilitate the refund, but instead, your information is used for fraudulent activities.
Fraud can happen to anyone
While some of this information may seem obvious, CRA scams are quite pervasive.
In 2022, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received 92,078 fraud reports from 57,578 victims involving $531 million in losses. That’s a lot of money lost for something “easy” to spot. No matter how savvy you feel at avoiding scams, we strongly recommend you always guard your information carefully, change your passwords regularly, and speak to your older relatives to save them the pain and embarrassment that comes with incidents like this.
Protect yourself from CRA scams
- Verify the identity of anyone claiming to be from the CRA – contact them directly through official channels.
- Avoid clicking on links or providing personal information when you receive unsolicited emails or messages.
- Keep your computer's antivirus and anti-malware software up to date.
What should you do if you have been scammed?
If you suspect that you may be the victim of a scam or fraud, contact all of the following:
- your local police service
- your financial institution
- credit reporting agencies
You should contact the CRA specifically if you:
- think your CRA user ID or password has been compromised
- find changes to your banking, address, business, or personal information made in your CRA My Account that you did not request
- find a benefit application made for you without your knowledge
- want to disable online access to the CRA’s sign-in services
- want to enable online access to the CRA’s sign-in services after it has been disabled
Are you looking to make your tax season even easier? Book a free consult with one of the True North team members to learn how we can help small business owners like you take the fear out of tax time. Contact us today.
Read more about Personal Tax topics that may be helpful to you and your small business.