Don’t Fall For These Two Recent Phone Scams

6 July 2015

Over the past few weeks, both the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Calgary police have had to issue warnings to the public about phone scams in which scammers have posed as Canadian government officials.

The first scam was a variation on the classic Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) phone scam, wherein fraudsters pose as CRA employees and either offer refunds or demand immediate payment over the phone. In this case, Calgary residents have been receiving calls from scammers pretending to be from either the CRA or Citizenship and Immigration Canada. They claim that the victims owe back taxes or invented fees and threaten to throw them in jail or deport them if they don’t send the money immediately.

If the victims fell for this portion of the scam, they were instructed to send money and personal information either through e-transfer, money wiring services or by buying pre-paid gift cards, a clear sign that they were not, in fact, working for the CRA.

However, for recent immigrants who aren’t completely sure how the Canadian tax system works, scams like this can be convincing. According to Staff Sergeant Kristie Verheul of the Calgary Police’s economic crimes unit, scammers often target immigrants for fraud and identity theft for this reason.

“They prey on your knowledge or lack of knowledge of what is normal in Canada,” Verheul told the CBC.

According to police, the scam has netted $10,000 from victims in the Calgary area so far. The CRA reminds the public that it never threatens to imprison taxpayers over the phone.

Meanwhile, another scam has been making the rounds that would be more convincing to most Canadians and makes use of what may be the most ironic phone scam technique in recent memory. The scammers have been using “phone spoofing” techniques to make their calls look like they’re coming from the National Do Not Call List, which is administered by the government and removes telephone numbers from telemarketers’ call lists. By using this technique, they have convinced people who are usually extremely reluctant to answer random phone numbers to pick up their calls. They then request personal information, supposedly to update the victim’s number on the list.

“It looks like they’re phishing for information…↑ so they’re giving this line where it says. ‘Your number is about to expire, and we need to update it with your current information,” Better Business Bureau spokesman Evan Kelly told the CBC. “And that’s where they’re getting your personal information, and that’s where it gets really really fishy.”

In reality, numbers that have been placed on the National Do Not Call List stay there until the person associated with them requests to have them removed, so the government never asks for information in order to update the list.

Kelly emphasized that anyone targeted by this scam should report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre immediately.

Scammers’ techniques are getting more sophisticated than ever. One way to gain peace of mind is to subscribe to a credit monitoring service so that you will be alerted in case of certain activity in your credit file that could indicate fraud.