With a mere eight days from the deadline to file income taxes, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is reminding residents how and when the CRA may contact them, especially in light of various scams.

According to the CRA's website, there are several legitimate reasons the CRA may call you, including reviewing your return or reviewing a recent registration for GST/HST or your GST/HST registration requirement. They may also be calling to offer free tax help for your small business through the CRA's Liaison Officer service, as well as to offer support in helping your clients access their benefits and credits.

Other reasons include if your CRA user ID and password have been revoked and to send you a notice of assessment or reassessment. But how can one differentiate between a legitimate phone call and a scam?

"A legitimate CRA employee will identify themself when they contact you by phone, providing you with their name and phone number to call them back if needed," The CRA added. "If you're suspicious, you can make sure the caller is a CRA employee before providing any information over the phone."

This includes telling the caller you would like to first verify their identity. You can request and make a note of their name, phone number, and office location.

"End the call. Then check that the information provided during the call was legitimate by contacting the CRA. Please do this before you give any information to the caller. Once you complete these three steps, you can call the CRA employee back to discuss the reason for their call."

A CRA call will not demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, cryptocurrency (Bitcoin), prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others. They will also not ask you for a fee to speak with a contact centre agent, nor will they set up a meeting in a public place to take a payment from you. Other red flags include the use of aggressive language or threatening you with arrest, deportation or sending the police as well as leaving voicemails that are threatening you, or that include your personal or financial information. The CRA will also not:

  • send you an email or text message with a link to your refund.
  • email or text you a link asking you to click on it or fill in an online form with personal or financial details.
  • use text messages or instant messaging such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to start a conversation with you about your taxes, benefits, or My Account

The CRA may also send out an official letter of correspondence and Gurpreet Plaha with the CRA underlined that you are encouraged to also verify if a letter is legitimate. 

"Just make sure that the contact number that you have, or they have mentioned in the letter- that it is the contact number for the CRA. You can go on our website and find out the contact; you can also verify the identity of the person who sent the letter to you," she explained. "If you have that doubt, you can give us a call at our 1-800 number and tell us the name, the phone number and the location of the employee or the person that's trying to contact you and then we can verify the identity."

The CRA's website also has a list of scams on their website which offers information on how to discern what is real and what is a scam, including examples of fraudulent phone calls, letters, emails and text messages, as well as online refund forms. 

"If it's a phone call, don't be afraid to say no and do your research. When it comes to scams, time is always on your side, so listen to your voice of reason to see if it is a legitimate CRA call or text or not," Plaha concluded. 

The CRA also encourages residents who suspect that they may be the victim of a scam or fraud or have been tricked into giving personal or financial information, to contact the local police.

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