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Protecting yourself from CRA telephone scams

One of the most common ways that Canadians are being defrauded every year is through scams whereby individuals impersonate agents of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to falsely obtain confidential information for identity theft purposes or to misappropriate funds.

To protect yourself against such scams, it is important to keep the following information in mind.

How will the CRA contact you?

Many of these scams can be avoided simply by knowing the ways in which the CRA will contact you. You can expect to hear from the CRA in the following three ways:

1)     Mail

All communication from the CRA will be accompanied by formal mail; therefore, if you receive any phone or electronic communication, but have not received a written letter regarding the same, you can be sure that further investigation is required.

2)     Phone

While it is not uncommon for a representative of the CRA to contact you via telephone to inquire about a previously filed return, you will never be contacted by text message, so it would be prudent not to respond to any request for information sent via text.

3)     Email

The CRA now offers an online mail service, but this is a service that you must sign up for. As such, if you receive email from the CRA, but don’t recall signing up for the online mail service, it is advisable to contact the CRA by telephone to confirm that official correspondence has been issued.

A helpful tool to use in managing your accounts, balances and correspondence with the CRA is the “My Account” service which allows you to log into a secure online portal and verify the information that the CRA has on-hand for you. Signing up for this service will allow you to independently verify any phone calls or emails you receive.

How will you know if you’re being scammed?

While the evolution of technology has made it much easier for scammers to make their requests appear legitimate, there are a number of ways you will be able to know that you are being scammed.

1)     An official agent of the CRA will never request that you make payment to them directly. They will also never request that you make payment via gift card or bitcoin ATM.

2)     Scammers will attempt to create a sense of fear and urgency to their requests. While the CRA would like to receive payment on overdue balances, they should never use threats to obtain payments.

3)     The CRA will typically not threaten police action. An outstanding tax balance is not in itself a criminal action and any criminal proceedings would have to follow a formal process that would allow you to obtain legal representation.

How should you protect yourself?

In the case that you receive a call from someone claiming to represent the CRA, some best practices would be to

  • listen calmly and take notes about any requests being made;
  • avoid divulging any personal information over the phone, especially information that would not typically be included in a tax return (i.e. passport number); and
  • notify the caller that you would like to independently verify the information from the call by either calling the CRA back on their main line or logging into your “My Account”.

The CRA has also provided additional advice on their website to help you protect yourself from fraud.

The Canada Revenue Agency can be reached at:

Individuals: 1-800-959-8281

Businesses: 1-800-959-5525