Have you ever received a phone call from someone who claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) threatening to arrest you if you don’t pay up? You’re not alone. The “CRA phone scam,” as it’s come to be known, is quite prevalent in Canada. In fact, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, more than $15 million has been taken from about 4,000 Canadians through the CRA phone scam since 2014. (Although the actual number of victims and dollar amount stolen is likely a lot higher.)
What exactly is the CRA phone scam and how do you protect yourself against it? Let’s take a closer look.
What’s the CRA Phone Scam?
If you haven’t received a fake CRA phone call, count yourself as one of the lucky few. The scam goes a little something like this: you get a phone call from someone who claims to be from the CRA who says that you owe money to the agency. If you don’t pay up immediately, you’re threatened with arrest. The fraudsters often ask for unusual forms of payment, including credit card, prepaid credit card, gift cards, Western Union wire transfer and cryptocurrency.
So, who are these scammers? CBC Marketplace did an excellent episode on the CRA phone scam earlier this year. Most of the scammers are located in Indian. In fact, there are actual call centres set up to scam Canadians out of their hard-earned money and life savings. Although the Canadian and Indian governments have been working closely together as of late to stop the CRA phone scam once and for all, it still persists and the number of victims continues to grow.
Protecting Yourself from the CRA Phone Scam
The best way to protect yourself from the CRA phone scam is to be careful when dealing with anyone over the phone.
If you receive an unsolicited incoming phone call from someone requesting personal information from you, it’s best to hang up and advise them that you’ll call their head office instead. (And don’t take the head office number from the caller. Look it up online from the official website.)
Another red flag to watch for is unusual payment methods. Do you really think the CRA would ask for payment by Bitcoin or Western Union? No way! As soon as you hear that, you know it’s a scam.
Don’t rely on caller ID either. Fraudsters are sophisticated these days. They’re able to spoof the call display to look like they’re actually calling from the CRA.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully by raising awareness of the CRA phone scam, we can stop it once and for all. The bottom line is that you should be extra careful when being asked to share personal and credit card information over the phone. When in doubt, hang up and do your own research . The sad reality is that once your money is gone, it’s pretty much impossible to recover.