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How to Protect Yourself from a CRA Scam

ON May 12, 2020

CRA Scam

Scams have been around for probably as long as people have interacted with one another. Once a scam is revealed, a new one takes its place. In recent years, scammers have been upping their game and becoming more creative, making them sometimes quite difficult to detect. Many will do their best to frighten you in order to keep you off guard and give you just enough doubt that you go along with what they say.

Imagine receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be a CRA agent. They tell you that you owe money and if you don’t repay it right away, there will be criminal charges laid against you. Even though your first reaction is disbelief, you may have at least some doubt. Could such a thing be possible?

What can you do to avoid being scammed?

The Setup

Scammers have a couple of options. There are four main ways for them to contact you: phone, text message, mail, or email. They will present themselves as agents of the CRA and might either inform you that you owe money to the government which you need to pay promptly to avoid criminal charges. Or they might tell you that you are owed a refund and you need to claim it. The first option is most commonly a phone scam, while the second method relies on the other three modes of contact.

When confronted with the phone scam, you will be faced with aggressive, high-pressure tactics, telling you that failure to comply will result in criminal prosecution. This can be enough to frighten people into acting before thinking things through.

In the case of the refund scam, you will be informed that the CRA owes you money. The scammer will again try to fast-talk you, not giving much time to think and playing upon your understandable desire to receive a refund. They will typically direct you to an online refund form where you will fill in personal information, including banking details. This form may appear very convincing.

Knowing that scams are becoming more elaborate and more convincing, the CRA has created a guide to detail the sort of interactions that you should expect from a legitimate contact, as well as the warning signs of a scam, which we summarize below.

Phone Scams

When contacting you by phone, the CRA may ask for:

  • Your full name and address
  • Your social insurance number
  • For business inquiries, they may ask for details pertaining to your account

They will never under any circumstances:

  • Use aggressive language, in person or in voicemail
  • Threaten you with arrest or tell you the police “are on their way”
  • Demand immediate payment in any form, including pre-paid gift cards, pre-paid credit cards, Bitcoin, or Interac e-Transfer

Mail Scams

If the CRA contacts you by mail, they may:

  • Send you a notice of assessment or reassessment
  • Ask for financial information such as the name and location of your bank
  • Ask you to pay an amount, directing you to one of the CRA’s payment options
  • Write to you to begin the audit process
  • Take legal action if you refuse to pay what you owe

The CRA will never:

  • Threaten you with arrest or prison
  • Demand immediate payment in any form, including pre-paid gift cards, pre-paid credit cards, Bitcoin, or Interac e-Transfer
  • Arrange to meet you in a public place to accept a payment

Email Scams

If the CRA contacts you by email, they may:

  • Direct you to a secure CRA portal such as My Account, My Business Account, or Represent a Client if there is a new document or message for you to view
  • Email you a link to a CRA webpage, form, or publication. This will onlyhappen if you have requested them to do so. At no other time will they send you an email with links

If the CRA contacts you by mail, they will never:

  • Provide or request personal information, or ask you to click on a provided link
  • Demand immediate payment in any form, including pre-paid gift cards, pre-paid credit cards, Bitcoin, or Interac e-Transfer
  • Threaten you with arrest or prison
  • Send a link of anykind unless you have specifically requested them to do so

Text or Instant Message Scams

If you receive a text or instant message from someone claiming to be an agent of the CRA, it is a scam. The CRA will never contact you through these means.

How to Protect Yourself

When someone requests money or personal information over the phone, you should first ask for their name, work section, and office location, informing them that you wish to verify their identity.

Once you have this information, you can call the CRA at 1-800-959-8281 (individuals) or 1-800-959-5525 (businesses) to find out if the person who contacted you is actually their employee.

You should also use one of the CRA’s secure portals to confirm your tax status. Visit My AccountMy Business Account, or Represent a Client. The CRA also offers an automated service that can provide you with information about your tax account balance. Reach them at 1-866-474-8272 and have your social insurance number, date of birth, and the total income (line 150 on your 2017 or 2016 return) available.

Why Would the CRA Actually Call?

There are times when the CRA may legitimately contact you, such as, for example, you failed to file your income tax and benefit return, or if you owe money to a government program. In these cases, however, you should already be aware of the situation, and being contacted should not be much of a surprise. It’s when you receive a call demanding payment for a debt that you are unaware of, or when something just feels wrong, that you need to take a moment and consider whether you are being scammed.

Take the time to verify that you are actually dealing with a CRA agent or you could end up making a costly mistake.

If you need to report a scam, call 1-888-495-8501 or visit


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