Updated: Apr 4, 2019
It’s one of the most stressful times of the year: tax time. A time of waiting for your employer to give you your T4 so you can file your taxes using TurboTax or H&R Block and just get it over with and get your refund - or pay a balance owing. Unfortunately, this time of year also shows a spike in fraudulent activity in the form of identity theft attempts. Everyone knows what it’s like to get a poorly-worded text from an unknown number stating that they have a refund available, and to follow a shortened website link to receive that refund. Firstly, the Canada Revenue Agency will never contact you by text - although they may contact you by calling - and secondly, you of course have to file your tax return to receive any kind of refund. What texts like these, or robocalls asking you to visit an odd website, or calls from an actual human being asking for specific personal information are trying to do, is steal your identity. By impersonating a trusted agency - in this case, the CRA - they are trying to gain your trust to get specific pieces of information from you, such as your Social Insurance Number or banking information, to then use that for their own financial gain - and your loss.
For example, in the image below you can see a text a member of our staff actually received. The first warning sign that this is actually someone impersonating the CRA - or more likely an automated program that someone has used - is as previously stated, the CRA will never contact you by text. Further aspects of the text that show its fraudulent nature are the statements that “This is for 1604XXXXXXX...”, as the text is not addressing the owner of the phone, just the easily found phone number; and the amount “122.56$” is formatted incorrectly. Lastly, the link in the text message has been masked using a URL shortener. URL shorteners are used for countless legitimate purposes, but they are also frequently used as part of scam attempts, such as this one. Taken with everything else, following that link from your phone would be a less-than-good decision.
Now in examples like this, it can be easy to tell that it’s an attempted scam attempt. But what if someone calls you? It can be much more difficult in these cases to determine whether or not the call you are receiving is legitimate, but thankfully the CRA provides a list of excellent guidelines here. In short, unless it is through official mail on CRA letterhead, or an email notification to check a CRA website, don’t trust it.If someone calls you, you can take down the caller’s name, phone number, and office location, and inform them that you want to validate their identity before answering their questions. Then, you can call the CRA at 1-800-959-8281 (for individuals), or 1-800-959-5525 (for business) to verify that the call you received was legitimate. If it was a legitimate CRA representative contacting you, you can then call them back at the number you took down previously.
Tax time is stressful, don’t let identity thieves make it worse! Protect yourself and your personal information, and if you are ever in doubt of the authenticity of any communication you received from what appears to be the CRA, contact them by phone to verify.
All information herein subject to change and all offers mentioned are subject to change and OAC.