Tax season is right around the corner, and over the next two months Canadians across the country will be compiling receipts, tallying ledgers, and diligently checking their mailboxes for T-4’s and other tax documents to be delivered by Canada Post.
Meanwhile, mail thieves may be gearing up to pilfer personal papers left in mailboxes, while telephone scam artists may be finalizing the scripts they’ll use to trick tired tax filers already stressed by what is for many a busy time of year. The North Vancouver RCMP wants to help.
“No, we can’t file your taxes for you,” said Sgt. Peter DeVries of the North Vancouver RCMP. “We have our own to file. But we can warn you about the different ways thieves and fraudsters may try to take advantage of you during tax season.”
From February into April each year, North Vancouver RCMP typically sees an uptick in mail thefts and fraud scams relating to income taxes and the Canada Revenue Agency.
“I’ve been targeted just like many other people,” said DeVries.
Telephone scams often start with an automated, computer-like voice telling you to press the number #1 for an important announcement from CRA. People who press one are then connected to a fake CRA agent.
“One of the first things they will do is ask your name,” said DeVries. “They’ll sound irritated and aggressive, they’ll quote fabricated file numbers, they’ll invoke made-up rules about courts and Judges, and they’ll make you feel like they have a target on you. In reality, they don’t even know your name. Once you give it to them, then they pretend they’ve had it all along. Once they’ve stressed you right out, they’ll tell you the only way to avoid arrest is by paying a fine.”
DeVries warns that mail thieves are much more hands on. “These people love to get your personal information,” he said. “In the worst of these cases, they will apply for credit cards and bank accounts in your name and then rack up huge bills that you might only discover once collection agencies start calling you.”
You can reduce the chances of becoming a victim of mail thieves and tax scams by familiarizing yourself with these tips:
To avoid CRA tax scams, be aware that:
The CRA will not call and threaten you to pay a tax debt;
The CRA will not call, leave a voice message, text or email you advising of a warrant of arrest for a tax debt;
The CRA will not request that you pay a tax debt through the use of crypto currencies such as Bitcoin or gift cards;
The CRA will not have you deported if you do not pay an owed tax debt;
If something feels unusual, or even have the slightest suspicion that it may be a tax scam, STOP! HANG UP THE PHONE!
To reduce the chances of becoming a victim of mail theft:
Collect your mail frequently, at least daily;
If you plan to travel, have a friend or trusted neighbour regularly collect your mail;
When you change your address, make sure to notify your mailers;
Before recycling, shred documents that contain personal information;
Report suspicious activities around mailboxes to police.
For more information on protecting your mail and detecting scams, here is a list of resources and links you can follow:
The Little Black Book of Scams (2nd Ed.) – available in Arabic, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, English, French, Punjabi, Spanish & Tagalog