Tax season has now started, and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is pushing for more people to go digital this year and file their taxes online. The filing period lasts until April 30, but the CRA is encouraging people to file as soon as possible. Doing it online will allow the CRA to produce your Notice of Assessment (NOA) and refund faster: the CRA estimates that doing a paper filing could result in a 10 to 12 week wait for your NOA.
Because more people are expected to file their taxes online this year, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is encouraging people to be alert for online tax scams, which are some of the most stubborn scams out there.
“While filing taxes online is faster and more convenient, it also widens the net of scams being used to target Canadians,” explains Karla Laird, Manager for Community and Public Relations at BBB. “Taxpayers will need to keep an eye out for versions of phishing emails with malicious links, fake CRA websites, and communications through non-traditional mediums like text messages and direct messages on social media. The scammers may use the ongoing pandemic as a reason to encourage you to engage with them.”
In a BBB Scam Tracker report, a consumer shared that she received an email saying “You have a refund of $700 this year. Click here to claim it. Link expires in 5 days.” This is a classic example of an online phishing tax scam. The email includes a link; the communication is enticing and encourages the recipient to click; and the link is likely to take you a website controlled by the scammer and not the CRA. Remember that emails from the CRA will only be notifications, will never include links, and will never ask you to reply with private information.
CRA phone impersonation scams have been around for several years. They usually take one of two forms: a CRA “agent” saying you owe back taxes and will face arrest, deportation or more if you do not pay, or someone claiming you are owed a tax refund. The catch? You need to give them personal information so they can send your “refund”, with the information often being used for identity theft.
The scammers can be very convincing, and will try to pressure you into making a payment before you have time to think too hard about it. One tip-off that it’s a scam is if the caller insists you pay by wire transfer, prepaid credit card, gift cards, or bitcoin.
Phone numbers can look as if they come from Ottawa, or can appear to be local, to trick people into taking the call. Some people report being called up to five times a day from five different numbers. Remember that the CRA does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message, or social media. CRA emails will never request personal or financial information, PINs, passwords, or similar access information for credit cards.
If you file your taxes online, make sure you are accessing the real CRA website when filing or inquiring for additional information. You can also sign up for email notifications from the CRA, which let you know via email if your address or direct deposit information has been changed on CRA records. These notifications can act as an early warning for potential fraudulent activity.
Act immediately if you have been scammed. If you are a victim in Canada, contact your local police service. If you believe your social insurance number has been stolen, contact Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218. Also report it to BBB Scam Tracker (https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker) so you can help to warn others.