How to Recognize and Avoid Tax Season Scams

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If you have a phone number or an email address, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of a tax season fraud attempt.

According to the Government of Canada’s Anti-Fraud Centre , there were over 62,000 reported cases and $554 Million lost to fraud during 2023. With individuals and businesses in the process of preparing their 2023 tax return documentation, fraud attempts related to taxes continue to rise.

These activities are generally made up of individuals impersonating the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and are attempting to acquire personal information or money from victims. To keep our members safe, we’ve compiled the top tips to help you recognize fraud attempts if you receive a suspicious communication.

1. CRA never communicates using text or instant messages.

If you receive a notification from CRA as a text message or through any common messaging app, such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, you can be guaranteed that it is a fraud attempt. CRA does not send notifications in this way. CRA will only contact you by phone call or notice in the mail. Some individuals may have enabled email notification through their online CRA account, and in these cases, the email will alert the user that a letter is available to them when they log in to their CRA account.

The only exception to this is if your online CRA account has enabled multi-factor authentication; in this case, you may receive a text with an alphanumeric code as a security measure to ensure you can safely access your account. Any other message, such as one requesting a payment, is not from CRA.

2. CRA will never threaten you.

These fraudulent activities will often try to intimidate you by threatening you with a potential arrest, fines, or jail time. CRA does not try to frighten or coerce you when it comes to your tax return and any potential payment you might owe. This also includes the warning that you shouldn’t tell anyone or your penalty will be increased. If a message you receive includes an immediate threat, you can be confident that it is a fraud attempt.

 3. You will never be asked to make payment by a specific method.

In order to avoid payment tracking by banks and authorities, fraudsters will often request payment by specific or unusual methods. These regularly include prepaid credit cards, gift cards, Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. If you do owe money on your taxes, CRA will use Canadian dollars and will help you coordinate a payment through your banking institution, such as through online banking, wire transfer or cheque. Additionally, if you are due to receive a refund on your tax return, CRA will only send you payments by direct deposit or by a cheque in the mail. If you receive any communication regarding sending or accepting an e-transfer, you can be guaranteed it is not an authentic request.

 4. You will not be provided with an urgent timeline.

These incidents will often position a sense of urgency in their request, so that targeted individuals will feel compelled to immediate action, rather than taking time to consider the demand and determine if it is valid. Do not let someone on the other end of the phone pressure you into a hurried decision.

 5. You will not be required to follow a specific link to access your account or information.

CRA will never send you information that is only accessible through a specific link. This type of message may state the link is to access a refund or benefit, or that you need to provide personal information to CRA to complete your tax return. If you receive any request that requires you to follow a dedicated link to access information, you can feel confident that this is a not a legitimate request and you should not respond.

The exception to this rule is if you have already been in communication with a CRA agent, and they have notified you that they will be providing you with documentation through email related to your case.

It’s important to remember that those engaged in fraudulent activity are always aware of changes and improvements to technology and are updating their strategies to match. For example, individuals can now easily spoof telephone numbers so that the incoming call appears to be an official agency or a local number in your community. When in doubt, always reach out to CRA yourself to verify the information or request.

If you think you received a fraudulent message, consider the following tips:

  • Reach out to CRA directly. You can call them at one of their 1-800 phone numbers or use their online chat feature and verify any request that you have received.
  • Verify information through your CRA online account. You can navigate to their website with your web browser, and then login.
  • Do not give out any personal or banking information unless you have initiated the contact with CRA yourself.

If you think you may have been the victim of fraud, take the following steps:

  • Contact your bank immediately. Depending on the timing, they may be able to put a stop payment on the transaction.
  • Your bank can also advise you if your credit and/or debit cards should be cancelled and reissued.
  • If your Social Insurance Number was compromised, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

To help with your tax services, CUA partners with Harding & Associates Accounting Inc. to provide professionally completed tax returns and expert advice. You can feel confident that your tax return will be accurate, submitted on time, and that you’re avoiding any tax fraud attempts.

Updated March 12, 2024

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