The CRA tax scam has reared its ugly head in Central Alberta again in the past week, and several Red Deer victims are out thousands of dollars each after being persuaded by aggressive callers to pay “overdue” taxes with gift cards, Steam cards (an online game), prepaid credit cards or bitcoin.
The scam has many variations – sometimes it uses pre-recorded messages, sometimes numerous calls from a person who continues to increase the level of their threats of arrest or deportation in ongoing attempts to pressure their victims into sending money. Several recent files saw the scammers call back after successfully victimizing Red Deerians once, telling them they owed even more money. One Red Deer complainant reported that their phone display showed the Red Deer RCMP complaint line number, and that the scammer claimed to have a warrant from the Alberta RCMP for their arrest.
No matter the variation in the approach scammers take, key facts are always the same:
· Even if you do owe money to Canada Revenue Agency, they do NOT accept payment in gift cards or bitcoin. No legitimate agency does.
· Any legitimate caller will encourage you to call back independently to verify their claim. Do NOT call back to a number the caller gives you. Look up CRA or the appropriate agency and call them yourself.
· If police call you on police business, they will give you verifiable facts including a file number and their name and rank. If you get a threatening phone call claiming to represent police and asking for money, ask for those verifiable facts, hang up and call your local police detachment to check.
· Remember that scammers frequently use “number spoofing” to make it look like their call is coming from a legitimate organization.
In the past few days, Red Deer RCMP have received more than 30 reports of the tax scam, including from a handful of victims who have lost between $1,500 and $4,700 each. If you receive a call from a tax scammer, you do not need to report it to police unless you have fallen victim to their scam. Just hang up the phone. These scammers are usually located outside of Canada, making it impossible for RCMP to locate them.
“Red Deer RCMP urge people to ask questions, be skeptical of phone calls from anyone who is demanding money, and to educate themselves about these very common scams,” says Corporal Karyn Kay of the Red Deer RCMP. “Check your facts and do your research, and be alert to red flags such as anyone demanding payment through gift cards or pre-paid credit cards. Then, when you get a call from a scammer, hang up and ignore them.”
Learn more about how to recognize and protect yourself from fraud at www.antifraudcentre.ca.