Don’t be afraid of police action over unpaid taxes

CRA scam evolving, getting even more serious

Expanding a bit on some recent comments I made regarding fraud and theft, I felt obligated this week to speak a bit about recent scams that continue to circulate.

One of the most prominent is the Canadian Revenue Agency fraud, or the “CRA” as it’s called. Essentially, a dishonest, lying slimeball phones up a local resident (likely a senior citizen) and attempts to intimidate and frighten them by claiming to represent the federal government’s tax office (why people should automatically feel fear at the mention of the tax department, I am not aware…).

The liar then proceeds to insult, denigrate and threaten the victim over the phone, stating that said victim owes a substantial tax bill and it better be cleared up quickly. Or else. The threats even go so far as to threaten arrest by the police if the tax bill isn’t paid immediately.

The threat of arrest has evolved, in fact. Consider this press release from the Spruce Grove RCMP.

“Many Canadians have received messages on their phone from someone claiming to be a police officer. This person states that the Canadian Revenue Agency has issued a warrant for their arrest because they owe taxes. They provide a name and a badge number. In order to avoid arrest, taxpayers are told to pay with money, gift cards and recently, bitcoin.

“The scammers have now introduced a new twist. Spruce Grove RCMP have received reports that the CRA scammers are now using the Spruce Grove Detachment’s complaint line, (780) 962-2222, to convince victims they are not scammers. They use spoofing mechanisms that allow them to choose any phone number they wish. Many people are aware of this scam and will use the internet to check the phone number. When the phone number belongs to a RCMP detachment, victims start to believe that the warrant may be legitimate.

“RCMP want the public to know that the Canadian Revenue Agency would never request payment over the phone, they do not accept gift cards or bitcoin as payment.”

Recently, one fraudster in British Columbia even went so far as to impersonate a police officer and show up at someone’s house, threatening to arrest them.

Readers should know that the federal government doesn’t phone people at home and threaten to arrest them over an unpaid tax bill. I covered the court beat for many years and huge unpaid tax debts can result in legal action, particularly if someone is knowingly dodging the tax man, but those cases can take a very long time to move through the court system. I’m talking years to be resolved.

Also, if you owe a debt to the federal government, Ottawa does not usually accept iTunes gift cards as payment. That, right there, is a huge red flag.

My advice? You should get call display, and do not ever answer the phone unless you know the phone number of the caller. A lot of these scammers use fake or fraudulent phone numbers (how this is open to them is a good question, though…) and they’ll show up on your call display as “Anonymous,” “Unknown,” “California (or another province of state),” or an obviously fake number such as 123-456-7890. Just don’t answer the call and you’ll never have to talk to scammers.

Also, don’t worry about being polite. Scammers would love to steal your savings and destroy your life. You should hang up on them, and you should have a smile on your face while you do it.

Stu Salkeld is the editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.

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