Have you ever received an email claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?
As a taxpayer, it’s crucial to stay vigilant about all communications received from the CRA. However, you should never accept these emails at face value as many scammers pose as CRA officials to obtain your personal information, including social insurance, bank account, credit card, and passport numbers.
Often, these CRA email scams will insist that your personal information is required for your tax refund or a benefit payment. Scammers may also use threatening or coercive language to scare you into paying fake debts or compel you to visit a phony CRA website where you’ll be asked to “verify” your identity by entering personal information.
The best way to protect yourself is to never respond to these fraudulent emails or click on any of the links contained within. But how can you tell the difference between the real, critical emails from the CRA or the scammers?
Here’s what else you need to know to help you identify when communications from the CRA are legitimate and avoid phony email scams.
How to Spot the CRA Email Scams
Before receiving any emails from the CRA, you must sign up for online mail with them. If you’ve never signed up or received a registration confirmation email to the email address you provided, then any emails claiming to be from the CRA are fake.
After you’ve signed up and confirmed your email with the CRA, they’ll only send you messages directly to the CRA online portal and never to your regular inbox. The only email you’ll receive from the CRA in your regular inbox are messages notifying you that you have online mail ready to be viewed within the CRA’s secure online services portal.
If you receive any emails claiming to be from the CRA that are NOT notifying you that you have online mail in the secure portal, they are fake and you should delete them immediately.
The whole point of a CRA email scams is to coerce you into paying large sums of money to the scammers. So, as mentioned above, these emails often use aggressive and threatening language. This is another way you can spot the scam. Always be on high alert for this type of language in any email you receive claiming to be from the CRA. Remember, the real CRA will only use a professional tone in their email communications.
Another important factor necessary to spot an email scam is that the CRA will only send you emails containing links if a genuine agent is on the phone with you, and only if you’ve called to ask for a form or a link to specific information. If someone calls you claiming to be from the CRA and they send you an email containing links, do NOT open them. Instead, hang up and call the CRA back directly with the official number listed on their website.
If you believe that you owe the CRA money and receive an email about it, always call the CRA directly to confirm that information. You can also verify the information online through the CRA’s My Account service.
Keep in mind that the CRA will never:
- Request any personal information via text message, social media, or email.
- Ask you to pay your taxes with prepaid credit cards or gift cards.
- Send an email asking you for personal or financial information.
Here’s How You Should Respond to an Email Scam
According to the Ottawa police, these scams work because people are understandably afraid of getting into financial trouble with the CRA. So, when confronted with an apparently official email from the CRA telling them they owe money, or there is a serious problem with their taxes, their first response is to try and fix the issue immediately.
The Ottawa police stress that the CRA is not the mafia. That means they will never come knocking down your door for a misfiled tax return, even if you owe money.
When you receive one of these fake messages, it’s important to stay calm and resist the need to respond immediately. Instead, take the time to call the CRA first (again, use the telephone number on their website, not one that’s included in the potentially fraudulent email). And whatever you do, never provide any personal or financial information by email without double checking directly with the CRA.
If you think that your CRA user ID or password has been compromised, you must contact the CRA immediately. If they confirm that your information has been accessed unlawfully, they’ll ensure it’s no longer used in CRA systems and processes. The CRA can also disable online access to your information on the CRA login services.
If you’ve accidentally given out your personal or financial information after reading a fake CRA email, then you need contact your local police department right away. Even if you feel embarrassed that you fell for the email scam, it’s vital that the police be notified immediately. Scammers depend on this embarrassment, hoping that their victims will drop the issue rather than follow up with the authorities.
Numerous Canadians have fallen victim to these email scams because they’re very convincing! In fact, since the RCMP began tracking CRA scams in 2014, there have been over 56,000 complaints to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and over $10 million lost to these scammers. So, there is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself
The CRA has posted samples of common email scams and transcripts of other fraudulent communications on their website. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to read these so you know what to look for in the future.
It’s also imperative that you never provide your personal information online, by email, or over the phone. Always call the CRA directly to confirm the information first.
Again, keep in mind that the CRA will never contact you through social media or email, and they’ll certainly never attempt to obtain credit card or other personal information this way.
Here’s How Canadian Cloud Accounting Can Help
One of the best ways to avoid CRA email scams and protect yourself is to choose who prepares your taxes wisely. You should always review your return and agree with the content before you file it, and you need to follow up to receive your notice of assessment because it contains key financial and personal information.
At Canadian Cloud Accounting, we’ll not only make sure that your taxes are filed correctly, but we’ll confirm that you’ve reviewed and agreed to all the information in your return and that you receive your notice of assessment.
This will help you better understand your financial situation so you won’t be confused by scam emails claiming that you owe money when you know for a fact that you’ve paid everything via your professional accountant.
So, what are you waiting for? Give us a call today and find out how we can help you and your business stay safe!