Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Canada Revenue Agency Phone Scams

Scam artists, posing over the phone as Canada Revenue Agency officials, have been very active recently.  They are very skilled at preying on fears and can appear very convincing.  They may even have your social insurance number.

Typically, the scam artist starts off by advising that the CRA is about to start legal action for unpaid tax – that your bank accounts are being frozen and that someone is on the way to your home to arrest you.  This is a sure sign of a scam.  Any actual legal action has to go through proper administrative and court procedures.  If the CRA was actually starting collection action against you, you would have already received notice of an amount owing.

In our system, you do not get arrested for owing back taxes.  The CRA issues a notice of assessment and you have at least 90 days to dispute the amount in question.  Nobody swoops down out of the blue to arrest you.  Debtor’s prison was abolished a long time ago.

The caller will usually supply a phony name and a made-up badge number.  If you ask to speak to a supervisor, the caller will have an accomplice to play that role.  As noted, the caller may also have your social insurance number.  Because many Canadians supply their social insurance numbers freely on numerous forms, it is relatively easy for a scammer to know your correct social insurance number.  
The scammer will provide very specific instructions for you to follow at your bank.  You will be told to drive to your bank  alone  and not to speak to anyone because time is of the essence, (remember, the arresting officer is on his way).  In Canada, however, you always have the right to speak to someone.  We do not live in a Franz Kafka novel.  Magna Carta has its 800th anniversary this year.

The scam artists are very convincing if you allow fear and emotion to take over.  A scammer recently even caused doubts to arise in the mind of an individual who had recently retired from a senior position in a financial institution.  Fortunately, however, that retiree took the time to think about what was going on and hung up on the scammer.

Remember that you have the extreme good fortune to live in a free and democratic society – a society that is governed by the rule of law.  The Canada Revenue Agency – like any arm of the government – has to follow due process.  Anyone who threatens to swoop down on you out of the blue is a scam artist.  Simply hang up the phone.  If you have any concerns, look in the telephone directory and telephone someone at the real office of the Canada Revenue Agency to confirm that you have indeed paid your taxes.

For more information on these and other scams, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm (a legitimate website).

Visit the Dwyer Tax Law web site
for information about our services and lawyers' profiles.

The above article provides general commentary of an educational nature. It does not constitute advice for any specific person or any specific set of circumstances. Because circumstances vary, readers should consult professional advisers in order to obtain advice that is applicable to their specific circumstances.