Since 2014, millions of Canadians have fallen victim to scam phone calls purportedly from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or other government agencies. These fraudulent calls demand immediate payment for alleged unpaid taxes, threatening arrest warrants. Receiving such a call can be distressing, leaving individuals uncertain about the authenticity of the government agency’s contact.


Safeguarding Yourself Against CRA scam calls and Fraudulent Communications

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) typically follows specific protocols when contacting individuals. While phone calls from the CRA do happen, they usually occur after written communications have been sent via letters or secure portals such as My Account, My Business Account, or Represent a client.

CRA scam calls

To ensure the legitimacy of a CRA call, consider the following:

  1. Verify the caller’s identity: Request the caller’s name, phone number, and office location to confirm their status as a CRA employee before proceeding with the conversation.
  2. Independent verification: Hang up and contact the CRA using official numbers like 1-800-959-8281 (for individuals) or 1-800-959-5525 (for businesses) to ascertain if the previous call was genuine.
  3. Protect personal information: While the CRA may need to validate your identity, exercise caution. They should not ask for sensitive details like your passport, social insurance number, bank account number, health card, or driver’s license. If such information is requested, it is likely a scam.
  4. Recognize red flags: During a legitimate call, the CRA will not resort to aggressive language, threats of immediate arrest, or demands for e-transfer, digital currency, or gift card payments. Instead, they may discuss payment options or take legal action if necessary, focusing on resolving your tax situation.
  5. Trust your instincts: If something feels suspicious, it probably is. Scammers often use threatening language, ask for alternative contact numbers, or employ robotic voices. Genuine CRA calls involve human interaction and will not exhibit these characteristics.

It’s important to remain vigilant against scam emails and text messages as well. The CRA never sends text messages, so any such communication regarding owed taxes or refunds should be considered fraudulent. While the CRA may use email to notify you about messages in a secure portal or to share requested forms or publications, exercise caution when clicking on links or providing personal and financial information. Be skeptical of emails or texts claiming to be from the CRA and avoid disclosing sensitive data through these channels.

By staying alert and familiarizing yourself with these precautions, you can protect yourself from falling victim to CRA scams and fraudulent communications.

CRA scam calls

Verifying the Legitimacy of CRA scam calls

To ensure that a call is genuinely from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), you can take several steps:

  1. Confirm the caller’s identity: Before proceeding with the conversation, request the caller’s name, phone number, and office location to verify that they are indeed a CRA employee.
  2. Hang up and call official CRA numbers: If in doubt, end the call and independently contact the CRA through trusted numbers such as 1-800-959-8281 (for individuals) or 1-800-959-5525 (for businesses). By doing so, you can ascertain whether the previous call was legitimate.
  3. Validate your identity: During genuine CRA calls, the officer may need to validate your identity. They might ask for certain personal information like your full name, date of birth, or address, which can be easily found online (e.g., on social media). However, they will not request sensitive details such as your passport, social insurance number, bank account number, health card, or driver’s license. If you receive such inquiries, it is likely a scam.
  4. Read between the lines: Authentic CRA calls will not involve aggressive language, threats of immediate arrest or imprisonment, or demands for payment via e-transfer, digital currency (e.g., bitcoin), prepaid credit cards, or gift cards like iTunes or Amazon. Instead, if you have outstanding debt, the CRA may discuss payment options or request financial information such as your bank’s name and location (excluding account or credit card numbers). Legal action may be considered if you refuse to pay, but the aim is to resolve your tax situation, not to send you to jail.
  5. Trust your instincts: If something seems suspicious, it probably is. If you receive a call or voicemail threatening legal consequences, urging you to contact a number other than the official CRA numbers, or if the voice on the other end sounds robotic, it is highly likely to be a scam. Genuine CRA calls involve real people with whom you can have a conversation.

Additionally, scammers may manipulate their caller ID to make it appear as if they are calling from the CRA. When in doubt, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did you file your tax return on time?
  • Have you received any notices regarding outstanding taxes?
  • Is there a plausible reason for the CRA to contact you?
  • Are you confident that the person calling is not a scammer?
  • Is the caller requesting information that you would not typically include in your tax return?
  • Are they asking for unconventional payment methods, such as gift cards?

It’s crucial to stay vigilant and employ these strategies to protect yourself from potential scams or fraudulent activities.