Monday marks the beginning of tax season, and with that comes different ways for scammers to try to steal your dollars.
The Better Business Bureau is reminding British Columbians that tax scams are some of the “most stubborn cons out there”, and that they may take a new spin each filing season.
One common theme year after year, however, is that most scammers pose as the Canada Revenue Agency. Such a scam usually involves either getting the victim to pay the fake CRA directly, or obtain personal information.
With more people expected to file online this year than ever, the BBB is encouraging people to keep an eye out for online tax scams.
“While filing taxes online is faster and more convenient, it also widens the net of scams being used to target Canadians,” said Karla Laird, Manager for Community and Public Relations at BBB. “Taxpayers will need to keep an eye out for versions of phishing emails with malicious links, fake CRA websites, and communications through non-traditional mediums like text messages and direct messages on social media. The scammers may use the ongoing pandemic as a reason to encourage you to engage with them.”
Laird shared one particular ‘Scam Tracker’ report that the BBB received: a taxpayer received an email stating “You have a refund of $700 this year. Click here to claim it. Link expires in 5 days.”
This is a classic example of an online phishing tax scam. The email includes a link; the communication is enticing and encourages the recipient to click; and the link is likely to take you a website controlled by the scammer and not the CRA. Remember that emails from the CRA will only be notifications, will never include links and will never ask you to reply with private information.
Tips to avoid tax scams:
- File your taxes as early as possible. File before a scammer has the chance to use your information to file a fake return.
- Only deal with trustworthy tax preparation services. For many people, major life changes, business ownership, or simply a lack of knowledge about the ever-changing tax laws make finding a trustworthy tax preparer a good idea. That said, not all tax preparers have the same level of experience and training.
- Remember that the CRA does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message or social media. CRA emails will never request personal or financial information, PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards.
- Check out websites carefully. Make sure you are accessing the real CRA website when filing your taxes electronically or inquiring for additional information.
- Use unique and complex passwords. Always use unique passwords for your CRA and online banking accounts. Do not reuse the same password for different systems. You increase the risk of scammers gaining access if there is a data breach on another platform that uses the same login details as your CRA account.
- Act immediately if you have been scammed. If you are a victim, contact your local police service. If you believe your Social Insurance Number has been stolen, contact Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218. Also report it to BBB Scam Tracker so you can help to warn others.
Online filing closes on April 30.