With March marking Fraud Prevention Month and taxes also on the minds and to-do lists of many of us, the New Brunswick RCMP would like to remind people to protect themselves from becoming targets of fraud or scams that can harm your finances and credit score.
The most widespread scam is one that attempts to fool people into believing they are receiving calls and messages from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). With the tax deadline looming next month, many people who might not ordinarily fall prey to a scam might be tricked to believe the messages are legitimate.
How it often works is the fraudster, posing as a CRA agent, may call, or send email or text messages that threaten a lawsuit, or arrest of a person, unless money is paid. These fraudulent "agents" may also purport to have a tax refund for you, that you have made errors in filing your return, or that you are being "investigated" by the CRA. These often include a link asking for you to click on it in response, or to give banking information. Don't.
These calls, emails and texts can be frequent, even relentless, but they are not from the CRA. The CRA does not under any circumstances request e-transfers, pre-paid gift or credit cards, or crypto-currency such as bitcoin, as payment. The agency also does not phone, text or email to collect taxes, or ask to obtain a person's financial details. If you owe taxes, or are owed money, the CRA will mail you a statement, including an official, legitimate contact phone number to reach the agency.
Agents of the CRA will not use threats, nor will they direct police to pursue a taxpayer, even if money is owed. If you want to safely check your tax assessment or return, use a secure online portal such as CRA's My Account (https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-individuals/account-individuals.html), or call the CRA at 1-800-959-8281.
If you feel you have been a target of a scam, file a complaint with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or by phoning 1-888-495-8501 during business hours. It's Canada's central agency responsible for collecting information and criminal intelligence on telemarketing frauds, advance fee frauds, Internet fraud and identification theft complaints, including these ongoing CRA scams. You can also contact Canada's two national credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, and request an anti-fraud alert be placed on your file.
If possible, document calls, texts, or emails, and keep track of any alleged account or reference numbers mentioned in the exchanges. It can help investigators in identifying the scammers, and make gains in shutting the scam down.
If you suspect the person calling you is a scammer, hang up immediately and call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Don't worry that it's rude to hang up. It's not, and it can save you money, and it squelches the scammer's ability to gain anything from you. If you've sent money to a scammer, be it through e-transfer, bitcoin, gift or credit cards, report the incident to police and notify your financial institution.
If you believe a family member or loved one is being targeted or has been scammed, you can help by urging them to talk about it and contact their local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. They could be embarrassed about having been a victim of a scam or suffering a financial loss, so it's important to be supportive and let them know there are ways out of the situation and to prevent further victimization.
Everyone can help prevent scammers from getting what they want and help in the fight against fraud. Recognize the signs, report any incidents or efforts to make you a fraud victim to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, and contact your local RCMP or police detachment if you believe you have lost money or personal information to a scammer.
Cpl. Laurent Lemieux
New Brunswick RCMP