CRA Scams: Here’s What You Need to Know to Protect Your Information

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Scams and phishing (the act of sending fraudulent emails to elicit personal information) are rampant these days. In fact, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the amount lost to scams and fraud jumped 130% in 2021 versus 2020.   So how do businesses recognize and prevent potential CRA scams? We’ll cover that and more, below.     What Are CRA Scams?   CRA scams are any fraudulent attempts that use the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) name to elicit money or personal information such as social insurance number (SIN), credit card number, bank account number, or passport number. This information can be used to steal money from your accounts, steal your identity, and more.   CRA scams can happen over the phone, email, mail, and text. These scams might request your personal information under the guise of issuing you a benefit or refund, or they might try to threaten you into paying a fake overdue balance. They may even direct you to a fake CRA website where you enter your personal information for them to steal.   As more people are becoming aware of potential CRA scams, the attempts get more and more creative, so it’s important to know what to look for.       How to Avoid CRA Scams    Avoiding CRA scams is more simple than you might think. It starts with understanding how the CRA, or any financial institution, might contact you and what information they might request.   The truth is that the CRA will never contact you and request your personal information. If you’re unsure, call the CRA directly to confirm if they contacted you. Businesses can use the number 1-800-959-5525 to confirm if the CRA contacted them.   Here are some things that the CRA would never do:  
  • The CRA won’t ever demand instant payment by e-transfer, credit card, gift cards, or cryptocurrency.
  • They won’t use aggressive or threatening language or suggest they’ll go to the police.
  • They won’t email you a link to get a refund or enter credit card details, or fill in any personal information on a form.
  • The CRA won’t ever text you about your taxes, refunds, or information. The only reason you’ll receive a text is if it’s a multi-factor authentication text with a one-time passcode to sign into your account.
  These are just some red flags, but the truth is that if it feels in any way unusual or off, you should give yourself some time to think it through. That can mean hanging up, saving the text or mail for later, or checking with the CRA directly. Taking a few minutes to think it through can save you headaches (and money) later.     How to Ensure a CRA Communication is Legitimate   There are plenty of reasons why the CRA might contact you. They might have questions about your new business registration, if they want to verify some of the tax documents sent, if you did not file your tax return, and more.   But it’s worth checking to ensure the caller is legitimate before discussing your business and account, and this can be done simply by telling the caller you’d like to verify their identity. You can request their name, phone number, and office. If something feels off, you can hang up and call the CRA back to ensure they did in fact try to contact you.   Key Takeaways: How to Avoid CRA Scams    When it comes to CRA scams, you can’t be too careful. After all, it’s your financial health and identity at stake. Trust your gut and double check anything that seems strange. You can also run it by a trusted partner or friend to get their take. If something does seem unusual, always report it to the CRA so they can help prevent these scams going forward.