The Tax Scam

By now there must be a warrant out for my arrest. And a subpoena. If this post ends in mid- sentence you know they came and took me away.

It is all my fault of course. I am a procrastinator. If it can wait until tomorrow I usually let it. So when I came home from work in early July and heard the message on the answering machine I thought “I’ll listen to that more closely tomorrow.” A week later there was another message, same voice, slightly modified message. But I was about to leave for vacation, so I ignored it. The caller said it was time sensitive, so I have no-one to blame but myself when they cart me off to prison.

Except of course they won’t cart me away – I know a scam when I hear one. I suspect though that I wasn’t the target audience of the automated call. They were looking to prey on the uneducated, or maybe immigrants whose grasp of the Canadian tax system is imperfect.

I didn’t get the whole of the call. The machine doing the calling didn’t wait for my machine to start recording. And I missed a couple of words that were too faint – I’m not sure if that was deliberate or not. But here’s what was left for me to react to:

This call is to notify you that we have received a legal petition notice concerning a tax evasion and tax fraud. Accordingly we have filed a case against you in the Federal courthouse. If you want any further information about this case, you had better call us back as soon as possible on our direct hotline number to the CRA Headquarters. That number is: (I’m not putting it here and it wasn’t the same in the follow-up call anyway). If we don’t receive a call from your side then be prepared to face the legal consequences as the issue at hand is extremely serious and time sensitive. We would have to notify your local police station to make sure they serve the subpoena and warrant that have been issued. Have a nice day.

The follow-up call was basically the same thing, just slightly reworded, and, as I said, with a different telephone number for he “hotline.” At least both times, after threatening me with arrest, they told me to have a nice day.

There are a number of things about the message that immediately identify it as a scam – and most of those I won’t detail here. No reason to tell the crooks, if they stumble on this bog, what they did wrong and how they can fix it. The telephone numbers were a dead giveaway though. The CRA (that’s Canada Revenue Agency to non-Canadians, equivalent to the American Internal Revenue Service) has definite protocols in how it contacts taxpayers. It uses a toll-free number, not cell phone numbers which the numbers left on my answering machine given obviously were.

Turns out that these fraudulent phone calls are common enough that the CRA has set up an anti-fraud centre. I didn’t know that before. They have lots of good advice on avoiding scams.

I think though that the best way to avoid being taken in by callers threatening you with dire consequences is to just ignore them. If your conscience is clear you’ll have no problem.

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