We’ve likely all received the call, someone claiming to be from the Canadian Revenue Agency saying that you’ve neglected to pay your taxes. I’ve posted a YouTube video about my experiences over the summer with these scammers, but really wanted to talk with one and see how profitable the scam really is.
Today, I had my chance.
A little background on how the scam works, a caller (usually recorded) claims you’ve skipped paying your taxes, and you need to call them back. After some aggressive tactics, including verification of personal information, they inevitably offer a solution to paying immediately before (as they claim) officers will come to take you off to jail (spoiler alert: they won’t). Eventually, they offer the solution of purchasing prepaid cards, usually iTunes gift cards, warning not to purchase the full amount at one retailer as to avoid suspicion.
Once you have the cards and reveal the pin numbers – you can guess what happens next. Yup, they clean out the cards and you’re left with a depleted account.
I’ve known people that nearly get sucked in by these scams, fearing that they are real. Usually, the scammers will prey upon new Canadians or the elderly. If scammed, victims are likely to be too embarrassed to report the crime, and it’s nearly impossible to track down the scammers as they use untraceable cell phones. Sometimes they will even mimic a seemingly local phone number to hopefully dupe people.
Today, I had a brief chat with one of the scammers. Now, how accurate the information is that they provided is questionable, but if there is a grain of truth to their proposed numbers, it is sad indeed.
For full disclosure, I revealed to the caller that I knew about the scam, and just wanted more information on if they actually make money off their victims. I asked the lady claiming to be from the CRA how many people she talked to today. Her claim was over 200 calls. Of that number, about 10 per cent of people were successfully victimized. From prior calls I received, the ask was anywhere from $2500-$4500, so if one in 10 people get scammed, the business is quite lucrative. That 10 per cent number seems high to me, but even a one per cent success rate is a very good pay day for the criminals.
I also inquired how much money they usually make in a day, and Ms. Anonymous CRA Caller quoted me $10,000 each day. Now, this could be sheer bragging and an inflated number, but considering how persistent these callers are, it wouldn’t be that far of a stretch. Our call was unfortunately cut short as the fake agent disconnected the line. I also tried calling back, and after explaining to another “agent” that I had a couple more questions, the line mysteriously was disconnected again. Further attempts suggest that my number has been blocked - I suppose they don’t like to be bothered by unknown callers…
The CRA does not call or email people in the methods described. If there is an actual discrepancy with what you paid or owe, they will use legal means (such as an official letter). Even the emails these scammers send will seem legit (using logos and letterhead), but the CRA will not request personal information like the scammers do.
If you have shared banking information with a suspected scammer, contact your bank immediately to place an alert on your account. There are resources available that can help, including your local RCMP detachment.