Tax season also means scam season

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Most of us are probably aware of the CRA phone call scam by now. This is when a person pretending to be from the CRA calls and says that you owe the government taxes. They demand payment via gift cards or else they’ll get the RCMP to lock up or deport you.

It’s a good thing that scams like these have been exposed because we now know what to watch out for:

  • preference for gift cards, pre-paid credit cards, or bitcoin as payment; and
  • scare tactics are used to push you to pay.

But never let your guard down. Newer variations of the CRA scam is done via phone, text, and email. Examples are:

  1. voice mail messages asking you to call a CRA representative back because of a supposed error you made when filing your tax return (when you call back, the “CRA representative” blackmails you into paying a certain amount so that you can avoid being sued for this “mistake”)
  2. texts and emails with a link urging you to “click and receive your tax refund immediately”
  3. a phishing scam where you are asked to confirm the changes you made on your My Account page, even if you didn’t update or change anything in your account.

(For more examples of frauds and scams, go to Examples of fraudulent communications from the CRA).

These schemes can be more subtle and can trip you up if you’re not careful.

Be Scam Smart – Tax Refund, CRA

Signs of a fraudulent call, text or email:

  1. You didn’t opt for emails – If the “CRA” sends an email and you didn’t provide them your email address or register to receive email notifications from CRA.
  2. It asks for personal or financial information – The CRA will never ask you for your credit card, bank account, or passport number.
  3. It contains links in the body of the message– The CRA will never ask you to click on a link to fill an online form with personal or financial details, or link to your refund. They will email you a link to a web page form or publication only if you requested it.
  4. The tone is off – The CRA will never use aggressive language or threaten you with arrest, deportation, or withholding other government benefits. They will never demand immediate payment via bitcoin, gift or pre-paid credit cards, or Interac e-transfer.
  5. Typo or grammatical errors – Spelling errors, uneven formatting, and bad grammar are tell-tale signs of a scammer in a hurry.

To be safe:

  1. Don’t rush – Don’t give out information or money right away.
  2. Think first – Take a minute and question why the CRA needs your personal information. If the message does not make sense, or if it seems suspicious, don’t act on it.
  3. Check if the communication came from the CRA – Call the numbers from the official CRA webpage, not from the suspicious voice mail, text, email, or mail sent to you.
  4. Keep your CRA account extra safe – Consider using multi-factor authentication. It’s an extra step that can ensure your account’s security.
  5. Report a scam message if you receive one – This can prevent someone else from falling victim to the scam. Report them to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. If you think that your CRA MyAccount or SIN have been compromised, contact CRA or Service Canada.

Article updated February 16, 2023.
Sources: Slam the scam-Protect yourself against fraud, Government of Canada; CRA presentation (Feb. 9, 2022).

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