Hanover Woman Receives Stranger’s Tax Forms Along With Her Own

23 April 2015

When Hanover, Ontario, resident Jessica Clark opened the envelope containing her tax assessment forms, she was shocked by what she found inside. Along with her own forms, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had sent her a second set of paperwork belonging to a woman in Brantford.

When Clark contacted the CRA to report the incident, the representative she spoke with told her that he had never heard of anything similar happening. He even told her not to open other people’s mail that ends up in her mailbox, assuming that the other woman’s forms were sent in a separate envelope.

Once Clark explained that the forms had actually come in the same envelope with her forms, addressed to her, the representative said he would send her a prepaid envelope so that she could forward the Brantford woman’s forms to the correct address. However, Clark is still shaken by the incident, saying that nothing would have stopped her from committing identity theft if she had wanted to do so.

“I don’t even feel comfortable having this information on me… Full name, social insurance number, full address, total income, net income, taxable income, if she would have had a refund, all of her RRSP deduction limits — everything,” Clark told the Hanover Post.

She added that she doesn’t know how the mishap would have been possible, given that her name and the other woman’s name aren’t close to each other in the alphabet and their social insurance numbers are completely different.

This news comes at a time when Canadians are being warned to be vigilant about the uptick in fraud and scams that comes along with tax season. Since tax forms contain so much personal information, they are fertile ground for fraudsters and scammers. Recently, the Certified General Accountants of Canada (CGA) released a guide on the top tax season scams and how to avoid them. They include:

  • Phishing scams. One of the most common forms of fraud during tax season is the fraudulent CRA email, claiming to offer a refund over the internet or asking for more personal information to complete your forms. Many of these emails look very trustworthy, using the official CRA letterhead, but the fact is that the CRA never asks for personal information or offers refunds via email. They will also never leave personal information on an answering machine. In addition to using your information for criminal purposes, these emails often contain malware, which can make your computer more vulnerable to hacking.
  • Fake charity scams. At tax time, many people are so buried in paperwork that they won’t be able to remember which organizations they have donated to in the past year. This is where fake charity scams come in. Scammers send out “thank you” letters for donations you haven’t made, asking for more information in order to process the supposed donation. Most charities don’t need much information in order to process a donation, but keeping track of every gift you make throughout the year will help you avoid this situation altogether.
  • Tax preparer fraud. If someone offers you an extra-high tax return or bases their tax preparation fee on a percentage of the refund amount, it’s likely that you’re dealing with a scammer and should look elsewhere for help.

However, in the anonymous Brantford woman’s case, it seems that the biggest threat to her privacy was the CRA itself.

If you’re looking for a way to feel more secure this tax season, a credit monitoring service can bring you some peace of mind by alerting you to certain types of activity in your credit files.