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It’s Tax (Scam) Season: How to Protect Yourself

By Diane Amato

Published April 26, 2023 • 5 Min Read

Tax scams’ quantity and sophistication have increased significantly in recent years. For instance, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported phishing email scams claiming to be from the CRA almost doubled between 2021 and 2022. Experts say that communications from fraudsters this year are harder to detect than ever — with fewer spelling mistakes and grammatical errors and the use of logos making them look legitimate.

While the Government of Canada is actively on the lookout for scams and is using more technology to protect Canadians, it’s important you remain aware and informed about tax scams that may try to trip you up this season.

Types of tax scams

Scams may involve a call, text, email or letter insisting you take immediate action to make a payment, receive a refund or verify personal information.

Here are examples of tax scams you may come across:

“Your tax refund is now available. Click here to receive your payment.”

This scam encourages you to visit a fake CRA website where you are asked to verify your identity by entering personal information. They may ask you to provide your social insurance number, date of birth, or name.

“You owe money to the CRA. We will send your file to a collection agency. Contact us now.”

In some cases, fraudsters will use coercive language to scare you into paying a false balance to the CRA. They may threaten you with arrest, jail time or a fine. Sometimes, they’ll say that “the police are on the way” to scare victims into acting immediately.

“You have a refund of $500 waiting for you. Click here to fill in the online form and claim it.”

With this scam, you will be encouraged to fill in your banking information and social insurance number in order to have the refund sent to you.

What you can expect from the CRA

Recognizing the prevalence of tax scams, the CRA makes it very clear how they communicate with Canadians.

Should you receive a communication that appears to be from the Canada Revenue Agency, note the CRA will never do the following:

  • Send an email with a link asking you to provide personal or financial information

  • Send you an email or a text with a link to your refund

  • Threaten you with an arrest or tell you they are sending the police

  • Demand you pay an outstanding balance by Interac e-Transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit card or gift card

  • Use texts or instant messages to start a conversation with you

  • Ask for a fee to speak with an agent

The type of behaviour you can expect from the CRA may include:

  • The CRA caller identifying themselves with their name, phone number and office location

  • Asking you to verify your identity by requesting your personal information, such as full name, date of birth, address or social insurance number

  • Asking you for details about your file in My Account or My Business Account

  • Calling you to ask about taxes owing or to begin an audit process

  • Calling you to offer free tax help

As it is important to stay vigilant, if you’re unsure about a phone call you receive from the CRA, call them at an official Canada Revenue Agency number to verify.

In the provinces:

Individuals: 1-800-959-8281 | Businesses: 1-800-959-5525

In the territories:

Individuals: 1-866-426-1527 | Businesses: 1-866-841-1876

How to protect yourself from tax scams

While tax scams are increasingly sophisticated, there are some simple things you can do to protect yourself, your identity and your money:

  • Don’t click on links sent via email or text or reply with any personal or financial information

  • Never send money via Interac e-Transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit card or gift card. Find out how to make payments to the CRA

  • Ask yourself a few key questions if something seems suspicious, such as:

    • Why is the caller pressuring me to act immediately?

    • Do I have a payment due soon?

    • Did I file my tax return on time?

    • Have I received a notice of assessment saying I owe tax?

    • Am I sure this is a CRA employee contacting me?

  • Stay up to date with CRA scam alerts to help avoid scams that may target you

What to do if you’re a tax scam victim

If you suspect you have been targeted by a tax scam, or have been the victim of fraud, it’s important to take action as a means of protecting yourself and other Canadians.

  • If you suspect you may be the victim of a scam or fraud or have been tricked into giving personal or financial information, contact your local police service.

  • To report a scam, call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at: 1-888-495-8501

  • For a lost or stolen social insurance number, call Service Canada at: 1-866-274-6627

Contact the CRA if any of the following occur:
  • You think your CRA user ID or password has been compromised

  • You find changes you did not request to your banking, address, business, or personal information

  • You find a benefit application made for you without your knowledge

  • You want to disable online access to your information in CRA sign-in services

  • You want to enable online access to your information in CRA sign-in services after it has been disabled

In the provinces: 1-800-959-8281

In the territories: 1-866-426-1527

While the threat of tax scams is real, knowing fraudsters’ common tactics can help you stay safe. Remember also to remain skeptical and take a few moments to ask yourself if a request seems reasonable. If it doesn’t, delete the email or text or hang up the phone.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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