Dave Christie, Presley & Partners Chartered Professional Accountants
Want to know why we’re constantly bombarded by scams? Simple answer: people keep falling for them.
The “Spanish Prisoner” scam that morphed into various Nigerian email scams has been traced back as far as the year 1588. It still exists – essentially unchanged after 428 years, in spite of incredible advances in society, technology and communications – because it works.
Scams are designed to appeal to us on an emotional level as opposed to a rational level, and this scam has a winning formula.
This past year has seen a number of scams related to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). They take many forms including early morning phone calls demanding payments, letters requesting updates of personal information, and emails or text messages promising tax refunds.
Very few people have indifferent feeling regarding the CRA, and the scammers know it. Dealings with the CRA induce high anxiety in many, and a phone call early in the morning demanding payment for fictitious tax debt plays perfectly into this fear. The callers always exert extreme pressure on the victim to make a payment that morning.
Letters or phone calls requesting updates to personal information with the CRA under a short deadline or face stiff penalties rely on the same fear. Fake websites with online forms provide an easy way for victims to hand over information. That info is then used for identity theft.
A recent flood of emails and texts promising false refunds contain links that also lead victims to divulge personal information. Many people will jump at the prospect of an unexpected windfall and won’t question the validity of the refund too closely. By the time they realize their error, the damage has been done.
So what can be done?
Unfortunately, the CRA hasn’t helped matters in this tax season by encouraging taxpayers to receive information from the agency by email. Prior to this initiative, we could always tell clients that the CRA never communicated by email.
If you receive an unexpected communication from the CRA, you should always seek to verify that it’s actually the CRA that has contacted you before taking any action. Call your accountant or call the CRA at their toll free number (800-959-8281). They will be able to confirm any transactions or issues with your personal taxes.
David Christie is a Chartered Professional Accountant, CGA and Manager with Presley & Partners, CPAs and Business Advisors. He can be reached at 250.338.1394 or firstname.lastname@example.org.