The Calgary Police Service Economic Crimes Unit is warning Calgarians of increasingly aggressive tactics being used to target people with what is known as the “CRA Scam.”
In the last week and a half, it is believed fraudsters have taken more than $50,000 from a number of Calgary victims. Since February 2015, more than 600 cases of fraud involving this scam have been identified in Calgary.
Victims are typically contacted by phone by people pretending to be with the Canada Revenue Agency. They often claim the victim owes a substantial amount of money in back taxes, or that their status in Canada is not legitimate. The offenders continue to threaten the victims with imprisonment and deportation. The victims are often forced to remain on their cell phone with the offenders, while they send money through money transfers, prepaid credit cards and cash deposits into numbered accounts. They will also ask for deposits to people, or a variety of different bank accounts.
If the victim challenges the offender, they are intimidated with threats of arrest, deportation, violence, sexual abuse and in some incidents, seizure of their children.
In a number of recent cases, the fraudsters have sent a taxi to the victim’s residence to take them to a money transfer location. Scammers are also making multiple phone calls to the victim, using different voices while posing as representatives of the CRA, Immigration Canada, the police and other authority figures.
In other instances, under duress, the victims have stayed on the phone for five hours and completed transfers due to the amount of fear that is being instilled by the offenders. The offenders will often use a call-spoofing system that displays a number with a “613” area code to help convince victims they are calling from the Ottawa area. They will also provide call-back phone numbers to the victims that look like legitimate phone numbers for these organizations.
While originally targeting new Canadians, police have now heard from a wide variety of victims.
Number of Cases Reported
Number of Victims Who Reported a Financial Loss
Police encourage anyone who believes they may have lost money to one of these scams to call the Calgary Police non-emergency line at 403-266-1234. Anyone who may have other information about these scams is asked to contact the non-emergency number, or Crime Stoppers anonymously using any of the following methods: TALK: 1-800-222-8477, TYPE: www.calgarycrimestoppers.org, TEXT: tttTIPS to 274637.
Citizens can help protect themselves using the following practices:
- Do not feel pressure to respond to a request until you have a chance to verify the story.
- Never transfer money, or give out credit card or other financial information, until you can verify the person’s identity and the story, and determine whether it is legitimate.
- The CRA will not ask for payment via prepaid credit cards or wire transfer.
- Look up published numbers for the CRA in the phone book and confirm the legitimacy of the caller’s story. Do not call numbers provided to you by the person who called you.
- Don’t believe what you see. Business logos, websites and email addresses can easily be duplicated to look legitimate.
- Watch for poor grammar and spelling.
- Contact the business directly to legitimize the communication before you take any action. Search online to get contact information from an official source.
- Hover your mouse over links to check their true destination. If the URL doesn’t match the link, or seems suspicious, don’t click on it.
- Be wary of unexpected emails that contain links or attachments from unknown senders.
- Update your computer’s anti-virus software.
- Ignore calls for immediate action or messages that create a sense of urgency.
- Beware of Phishing emails posing as the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requesting personal information, or links within an email re-directing to a fraudulent website that appears to represent the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA does not email Canadians and request personal information.
- Never provide personal information such as SIN, bank account information or credit card numbers.