Getting scammed can put you into a financial crisis. Here are some tips on how to avoid it.
Scams are no joke. Every year, thousands of Canadians fall victim to scammers. These scammers manage to trick people into revealing sensitive information about themselves and their financial accounts.
Everyone Needs to Know How to Avoid Scams and Scammers
It’s hard to avoid scams and scammers because they use every means possible to cheat people out of their money. They can sound friendly and helpful, and they may even know something about you already. They will typically claim to be calling or emailing you from a company or bank that you trust.
Here are some of the top scams operating today, followed by what you can do to avoid them to protect yourself and your money.
Fake CRA Calls
Right now, in Canada, one of the top scamming problems is fake CRA calls. Someone claiming to work for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will contact you by phone. Sometimes they use email to carry out their scams, too. Typically, they use scare tactics to convince you to resolve your unpaid tax bill immediately. Their goal? To get you to reveal your credit card information.
These fake CRA calls are on the rise, and they’re getting even more aggressive. Sometimes the targeted victim will pick up the phone and hear a pre-recorded message. The message contains the alarming news that there is a pending criminal case against the receiver of the call. Legal action against them may take place unless they call the number back to discuss the “tax issue”.
When the “victim” calls back, they’re scared and easily pressured to reveal important sensitive personal and/or financial data.
Other Scams to Know About
Phone and email scams are nothing new. It’s just that the fake CRA calls are the latest trend with scammers. Law enforcement officers are reporting an increase in the number and aggressiveness of these scams in cities like Hamilton, Ontario and Victoria, BC. Now, the scammers have a new tactic: they are changing how caller ID displays their numbers. This allows them to mimic actual CRA agents or the local police.
Luckily, the tactics that you can use to avoid scams and scammers can also be used to avoid the following common scams:
- The One Ring Trick. Your phone rings once, and the victim’s curiosity causes them to call the number back to see who it was.
- Calls from Your Bank. This is very similar to the fake CRA calls scam.
- Virtual Kidnapping. Scammers will call you and pretend to have kidnapped a family member.
How Can I Identify a Scam?
Knowing how to recognize a scam, you’ll be better equipped to protect yourself if and when you are the target of a scam. Although new scams are invented daily, there are a few tell-tale signs that help to identify a scam quickly.
In the case of fake CRA calls, here’s what you should know. The following section details actions that representatives from The Canada Revenue Agency would never take.
Ask for Info from Your Health Card
The CRA will never ask for your driver’s license number, your passport number, or any information from your health card. They may ask for financial information like the name of your bank (by mail) or your social insurance number (by phone) but never from your passport, driver’s license, or health card.
Demand Immediate Payment
The CRA will never demand that you pay a bill immediately using alternative payment systems like bitcoin, prepaid credit cards, gift cards, or Interac e-transfer. They may call you to begin an audit process, but they will not be threatening or demand immediate payment.
Use the Phone or Voicemail Inappropriately
They are trained not to leave voicemails that contain personal information or financial information. They will also never leave voicemails that sound threatening.
They will not use threatening language when they speak to you, nor will they threaten you with arrest or a police visit. They may take legal action against you, but they will not send the police to your home.
If someone claiming to be from the CRA attempts to phone you and set up a face-to-face meeting with you in public in order to receive a payment, that is a scam. There are ways to pay in person, but none of them involve meeting in a public place to exchange money.
Use Email Inappropriately
The CRA does not send out emails asking for personal or financial information by email. Nor will they ask you to click on a link that they email to you, unless you asked for the link personally by phone. They may email you to tell you that you have a new message in your online CRA account.
The CRA has a page on their Government of Canada website that outlines how you should make payments or payment arrangements. Visit that site or have someone explain that resource to you, so you understand how payments work with the CRA.
How Can I Avoid Scams?
Sometimes the CRA does, in fact, call people. There’s a simple way to tell whether the caller is really from the CRA:
- Tell them you want to verify who they are and where they’re calling from.
- Ask for their name and their phone number and tell them you’ll call them back.
- Call 1-800-959-8281 to speak to a CRA representative about your account.
In general, the best way to avoid scams and scammers is to always be suspicious and never provide personal information by email or by filling out an online form.
If you have been a victim of a scam, contact your bank directly and advise them to stop any payments you may be concerned about from coming out of your account.