It is a new year but an old scam.
There are fraudsters posing as Canada Revenue Agency reps over the phone, and a Chilliwack senior was targeted recently by one of them, said Coletta Holmes of the Chilliwack & District Seniors’ Resources Society.
The local senior was contacted by someone claiming to be from the CRA, who told her there was a problem with her income tax return.
The local Seniors’ Resources Society offers an income tax service run by volunteers, in conjunction with CRA, and that is how they found out about a Chilliwack resident being hit by a scammer.
“We know the CRA doesn’t contact people that way,” Holmes said. “We tell them to hang up and call the CRA’s 1-800 number to check their account.”
She said sometimes an elder will hear that the “taxman” is on the phone, and they’ll panic, and do whatever they say.
They tried to call back the fake 1-613 number, and the way it was answered just sounded wrong, so they reported the attempted fraud to RCMP, who told them to report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Chilliwack MLA John Martin said given his background in criminology, he was invited to speak at a fraud prevention session offered by the Seniors’ Resources Society in Chilliwack last year.
“There are so many sophisticated layers of fraud out there, and many of them target seniors,” Martin said.
The philosophy of the confidence game has remained the same in some ways, but the delivery method has changed.
“A lot of this fraudulent activity has gone global,” said Martin.
That has stymied the more traditional techniques of enforcement agencies, and made it necessary to engage in cross-border investigations.
With an aging population, and a lot of the wealth anchored in the seniors’ demographic, it sometimes makes them a target for the criminal element, especially if they’re perceived to be less tech savvy than others.
“The most important thing is to be mindful that they are being deliberate targeted, and even more so than in the past,” he said.
If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
The Better Business Bureau of Vancouver reported last summer that the CRA phone scam is still circulating.
“Typically the scam artist will offer a phony badge number and threaten the consumer if back payment for taxes owned aren’t paid immediately or within 24 hours,” according to the BBB website. “Consumers are instructed to wire money to a phony CRA account.”
There are ways to protect yourself. The CRA does not make initial contact with people about tax related matters via phone. It’s more likely it will be a formal letter, with a Social Insurance Number and complete contact information. The CRA will also never ask anyone to wire money. All tax payments are made to the Receiver General.
Income tax enquiries to CRA by individuals can be made by calling 1-800-959-8281.
BBB offered these tips on income tax scams:
• The CRA does not solicit by phone for payment or any other personal information.
• If you receive a call like this, say you will contact CRA yourself and hang up.
• Do not return the call with number that shows up on call display; it’s likely spoofed.
• The CRA does not accept payment through pre-paid credit or gift cards.
• The CRA will not send emails containing any links.
• The CRA will not request personal information of any kind from a taxpayer by email or text message.
• The CRA will not divulge taxpayer information to another person unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer.
• The CRA will not send emails in English or French only: all communications are in both official languages.
• The CRA will not leave any personal information on an answering machine.
• Contact Better Business Bureau serving Mainland BC at 604-682-2711 bbb.org/mbc
• Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre