Did you know that “fraud is the number one crime against older Canadians” according to the Government of Canada website? If you’ve ever received a suspicious phone call, email, text message, or letter claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), then you’ve been a target of scammers.
But how do you know if the person on the other end of the line isn’t who they say they are? Scammers know how to play to emotions, while in other instances will play to your fears–keep in mind: the CRA will never threaten you! Unfortunately, seniors and older adults are easy targets for fraudsters looking to impersonate the CRA for a quick payday that could land you in serious financial trouble.
Let’s first look at the Types of Fraud out there.
Easy Ways to Spot a Scam
…and how to fight against them.
1. Credit/debit. If they are asking for any kind of personal or financial information (including your credit card number, bank account number, or passport number) this is a scam! Also, never hand a card over in a store. Swipe or insert it yourself, and shield the pin to avoid people “skimming” your card.
2. Online phishing. Be aware when you’re providing the above personal details online, as well. Even if a website is legitimate, hackers have their ways. Ensure you have strong passwords and never share them. Also, look for the little “lock” icon next to the “https” and make sure there’s an “s” on the end of “https”. Most importantly, if you get an email, even from one of your contacts, but it feels suspicious never, ever click on the links or attachments!
3. Identity Theft. Shred and/or throw out credit card statements, and any paperwork that has your name, address, and personal details on it. Putting these together, someone going through the trash can easily assume your identity and take out fake credit card accounts.
4. Fake charities and Jackpots! Ever gotten a call that your Microsoft account isn’t working (yet you don’t run Microsoft) or you won a free trip…but don’t remember entering any draws? Sure, you may have forgotten, but we bet that this is 100% fake—especially if they’re asking for a credit card down payment or eTransfer! The same goes for fake charities soliciting money. Always, always ask the person for the registered charitable tax number to confirm their status with the CRA before handing over cash.
5. Pyramid schemes. Investing in a promising-sounding start-up may feel like it’s the ticket to a worry-free retirement—but it’s probably the quickest way to all the worries. Heed your internal alarm bells that nothing is easy, especially the way to financial freedom paved by “the easy way”.
Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion if you’re not sure. It’s a small moment compared to years of potential financial ruin. You may feel like you’re not a target because you’re not extremely wealthy, but con artists could steal small amounts from several people to the same end. They may call you, or they might even come straight to your door in person.
Some additional tips to keep you safe from CRA scammers
Think the CRA is “after you”? Think again.
Here are a few things the CRA WILL NEVER DO:
1. Ask for your information (personal or financial) through an email or text message link.
2. Ask for payment via prepaid credit or gift cards.
3. Leave your personal information on an answering machine.
If you believe you may been the victim of a tax scam or given your personal or financial information out, please contact your local police non-emergency line.
One way to keep close track of your account, is to visit the official Government of Canada website to sign up for an account.