Beware of scammers posing as CRA employees.

Scammers posing as Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employees continue to contact Canadians, misleading them into paying the false debt. These persistent scammers have created fear among people who now automatically assume that any communication from someone representing the CRA is not genuine.

This tax tip will remind Canadians that the CRA does indeed contact taxpayers by phone, email and mail for legitimate reasons. The following tips will help Canadians identify legitimate communications from the CRA.

By phone:

The CRA 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

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 or sending the police
  • leave voicemails that are threatening or give personal or financial information

By email:

The CRA may

  • notify you by email 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 make 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

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 a text or instant messages claiming to be from the CRA, they are scams!

Before giving money or 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.

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 it 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?

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 benefits 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.

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.

Sample telephone scams

You may get a phone call from a person aggressively telling you to pay the taxes you owe. This person will claim to be from the Canada Revenue Agency. In an effort to prevent you from falling prey to these cons, the CRA is releasing transcripts of the scams that are currently targeting taxpayers.

Caller ID Spoofing

Caller ID is a useful function. However, the information displayed can be altered by criminals. Never use only the displayed information to confirm the identity of the caller, whether it be an individual, a company or a government entity.

Sample 1

The first example is a transcript from a voice message received by a CRA employee based in Halifax and contains several red flags you should be aware of:

“The reason behind this call is to notify you that we have registered a criminal case against your name concerning tax evasion and tax fraud in the federal courthouse.  So, if you want any further information about this case, please make sure you give us a call back as quickly as possible to our direct hotline number to the Canada Revenue Agency Headquarters. That is 613-927-9919, I will please repeat the number, 613-927-9919.  If we don’t receive a call from your side, please be prepared to face the legal consequences, as the issue of tax is extremely serious and time-sensitive. So, have a blessed time.”

Sample 2

The second example is a (partial) transcript from a voice message of a telephone scam in which the caller urges the listener to return a call before legal action is taken against them. The call contains several red flags that you should be aware of:

“… this case is extremely time-sensitive. I am officer Nicky Johnson from the Canada Revenue Agency, and the hotline for my division is 613-665-0503. I repeat it’s 613-665-0503. Don’t disregard this message, and do return the call before we take any action against you. Goodbye, and take care.”

Sample 3

The third example is another transcript from a voice message telephone scam in which the caller urges the listener to return a call before legal action is taken against them. The call contains several red flags that you should be aware of:

“… So, in the next 24 hours, we will be marking a lien on your assets and your bank accounts due to your inability to settle your dues with the CRA. A bill collection officer will visit you soon to complete the paper works. If you have any questions, then call our tax default line. 888-745-0433, I repeat it’s, 888-745-0433. If you don’t call immediately, or if we don’t hear from your attorney either, then you will be solely responsible for all legal consequences. Goodbye.”

Sample 4

The fourth example is a scam phone call to Nate Brideau, a Winnipeg-based corporate tax specialist. Nate recognized the scam early. He recorded several calls the scammers made and sent the recordings to the Winnipeg Free Press, which published an article on the issue.

Sample 5

To hear another example of a phone scam, go to CBC’s recording of a phone scam.

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