The Lethbridge Police Service is warning the public to be cautious regarding tax-related fraud.
While Lethbridge Police receive reports of such scams throughout the year, it’s anticipated those will increase as the tax return deadline approaches.
Sgt. Kevin Talbot, of the Economic Crimes Unit, says police are trying to get ahead of the problem by informing the public of some of the common scams perpetuated, how to avoid them and what to do if they have been targeted or fall victim to fraud.
The scams generally involve someone reporting to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) contacting the victim through email, text or recorded phone message and demanding payment for taxes owed. They usually include threats that failure to immediately comply will result in their arrest, a seizure of bank funds, the loss of their Social Insurance Number or other severe penalties.
“That’s the tactic they use to get you to act quickly and ignore all reasonableness and diligence,” says Talbot, noting most citizens are “good, honest people” who will do whatever possible to stay out of trouble. “If they just asked politely, with no threat implied, you’d take the time to research it, figure out how you are going to resolve it, perhaps discuss it and negotiate before you deal with it.”
Another tip off is when scammers demand payment though unusual means. The CRA will not ask for payment by Interact, e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others. Nor will they ask for a fee to speak with someone about the matter, or make inquiries about personal or financial information.
Talbot says the best remedy is to ignore those demands and report the suspected scam to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by phone (toll free) 1-888-495-8501 or online at https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/
Locals targeted, especially those who have been victimized and lost money, are also asked to report it through the LPS complaint line at 403-328-4444. Such scams are generally international in nature, which provides an extra challenge to law enforcement agencies. Even if prosecution doesn’t result in an individual case, however, Talbot says documentation can help identify trends and possible links to other reported scams.
Anyone who feels the need to address such inquiries should ensure they verify all information provided before proceeding further. To confirm the Canada Revenue Agency has contacted you, individuals are asked to call 1-800-959-8281and businesses to call 1-800-959-5525.
More information on frauds and how to protect yourself is available through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website (see link above), as well as the CRA at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/corporate/security/protect-yourself-against-fraud.html