The Ontario Provincial Police, in partnership with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, has kicked off their annual Fraud Prevention Month public awareness campaign and will provide tips on spotting fraudsters throughout the month of March.
Each year, thousands of Canadians fall victim to a variety of phone, internet and mailing scams, losing millions of dollars in the process. These scammers employ a number of tactics to persuade or coerce their victims into sending money or providing sensitive personal information, making them vulnerable to identity theft.
And with tax season in full swing, reports of tax scams have been surfacing across Ontario -- in Grey County, Simcoe County, Peel Region, Huron County, Northumberland County, and Halton Region, just to name a few.
Here are 3 telltale signs you're on the receiving end of a tax scam call:
1. The caller asks you to provide sensitive personal information over the phone
In a typical tax scam call, the caller claims to be a Canada Revenue Agency agent calling to inform the target that they have a tax refund pending. In some instances, the caller provides a fake name and CRA badge number. The caller then asks the target for a specific piece of personal information -- e.g. date of birth, bank account number, social insurance number, etc. -- in order to confirm their identity and issue the refund.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, residents should never provide their social insurance number, credit card number, bank account number, or passport number during an unsolicited call. When in doubt, hang up and contact the CRA call centre directly to confirm whether you are indeed eligible for a tax refund or benefit.
2. The caller demands immediate payment to a specific account
In another type of tax scam call, the fake CRA agent claims that the target has been audited and owes hundreds, if not thousands, in taxes. The caller then uses intimidating language to coerce the target, demanding immediate payment through any one of a number of reported methods: Western Union or Money Gram transfers, sending bank transfers, or buying prepaid credit cards in order to make a payment. In some cases, targets were instructed to wire money overseas.
According to the Peel Regional Police, the Canadian Government DOES NOT accept payments via Western Union, Money Gram or prepaid credit cards and would never ask you to wire such payments to a foreign country.
For more information on the official methods of payment accepted by the CRA, click here.
3. The caller threatens to have you arrested
One of the tactics used by tax scam callers is threatening the target with imminent arrest, or even deportation, if they do not make arrangements to pay during the call. In one instance, a Burlington resident was told by a fake CRA agent that if payment was not arranged, a collections agent would show up at his house within 24 hours.
Depending on the individual case, the CRA may use one or more of the following tools to recover taxes owed: garnishment of income, certification of debt in federal court, seizing major assets, withholding other government entitlements (e.g. tax benefits) to offset what is owed, or holding a third party jointly responsible for the debt.
Have you received tax scam call recently? Share your story in the comments below to help others recognize the signs of a scam.