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CRA Scams -- Be Aware

Scammers posing as Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employees continue to contact Canadians, misleading them into paying false debt. Their persistency has created so much fear amongst the public, that many people automatically assume that any communication from someone identifying themselves as the CRA is not genuine.

With the tax filing deadline approaching, it’s crucial that Canadians are vigilant rejecting scammers, and just as important for taxpayers to understand how and when the CRA does in fact interact with taxpayers.

The information below outlines how the public can distinguish between scams and legitimate CRA phone calls, email, and hard copy mail.

By phone:

Why would the CRA contact anyone by phone?  Some of the reasons the CRA may call:

They wrote to you previously, or any of the following situations apply:

·         you owe tax or money to a government program. A collections officer may call you to discuss your file and ask you to make a payment. In this case, you may need to provide some information about your household financial situation;

·         you did not file your income tax and benefit return. A CRA officer may call you to ask you for the missing returns;

·         the CRA has questions about the tax and benefit records or documents you sent. A CRA officer may call you for more information;

·         you are a small business and the CRA is offering a Liaison Officer visit.

If someone from the CRA does call, they may:

·         verify your identity by asking for personal information, such as your full name, date of birth, address and account, or social insurance number;

·         ask for details about your account, in the case of a business enquiry;

·         call you to begin an audit process 

BUT the CRA will never:

·         ask for information about your passport, health card, or driver's license;

·         demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others;

·         use aggressive language or threaten you with arrest;

·         leave voicemails that are threatening, or provide personal or financial information

Before providing any personal information over the phone:

Make sure the caller is a CRA employee:

·         Ask for, or make a note of, the caller's name, phone number, and office location and tell them that you want to first verify their identity;

·         You can then check that the employee calling you about your taxes works for the CRA or that the CRA did contact you by calling 1-800-959-8281 for individuals or 1-800-959-5525 for businesses. If the call you received was about a government program such as Student Loans or Employment Insurance, call 1-866-864-5823.

By email:

The CRA may:

·         notify you when a new message or a document, such as a notice of assessment or reassessment, is available for you to view in secure CRA portals such as My Account, My Business Account, or Represent a Client;

·         email you a link to a CRA webpage, form, or publication that you ask for during a telephone call or a meeting with an agent (this is the only case where the CRA will send an email containing links)

The CRA will never:

·         give or ask for personal, or financial information, by email and ask you to click on a link;

·         email you a link asking you to fill in an online form with personal or financial details;

·         send you an email with a link to your refund;

·         demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards, or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others;

·         threaten you with arrest or a prison sentence.

By mail

The CRA may

·         ask for financial information such as the name of your bank and its location;

·         send you a notice of assessment or reassessment;

·         ask you to pay an amount you owe through any of the CRA's payment options;

·         take legal action to recover the money you owe, if you refuse to pay your debt;

·         write to you to begin an audit process. 

The CRA will never

·         set up a meeting with you in a public place to take a payment;

·         demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others;

·         threaten you with arrest or a prison sentence 

And NEVER by text messages/instant messaging:

The CRA never uses text messages or instant messaging such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to communicate with taxpayers under any circumstance. If a taxpayer receives text or instant messages claiming to be from the CRA, they are scams! 

To protect yourself from scams, verify your tax status and make sure the CRA has your current address and email.

·         Confirm your tax status through one of the CRA's secure portals, My Account, My Business Account, or Represent a Client, or through the MyCRA and MyBenefits CRA mobile web apps

·         You can also call the CRA's Individual Tax Account Balance Automated Service at 1-866-474-8272. This automated phone service provides information about your tax account balance, as well as your last payment amount and date. To use this service, be ready to give your social insurance number, date of birth and the total income you entered on line 150 of your 2017 or 2016 tax return.

·         Call 1-866-864-5823 to update your address or contact information for government programs that you owe money to, such as student loans or employment insurance.

 When in doubt, ask yourself:

·         Why is the caller pressuring me to act immediately? Am I certain the caller is a CRA employee?

·         Did I file my tax return on time? Have I received a notice of assessment or reassessment saying I owe tax?

·         Have I received written communication from the CRA by email or mail about the subject of the call?

·         Does the CRA have my most recent contact information, such as my email and address?

·         Is the caller asking for information I would not give in my tax return or that is not related to the money I owe the CRA?

·         Did I recently send a request to change my business number information?

·         Do I have an instalment payment due soon?

·         Have I received a statement of account about a government program I owe money to, such as employment insurance or Canada Student Loans? 

More information on tax scams and fraud can be found at canada.ca/taxes-fraud-prevention.

To report scams

To report scams, go to antifraudcentre.ca or call 1-888-495-8501. If you think you may be the victim of fraud or you unknowingly provided personal or financial information, contact your local police service, financial institution, and credit reporting agencies.

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