March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada

3 March 2015

As Fraud Prevention Month kicks off, many Canadians are preparing to fill out their tax returns by the April 30 deadline, and officials are taking the opportunity to remind citizens that it’s important to protect themselves against fraud while filing taxes, both now and throughout the year.

Throughout the month, the government will be hosting events and discussions on social media on the theme of “Don’t Buy Into Fraud”, or “Non à la fraude! A tout prix!” To follow these discussions or to express your own concerns or questions about fraud, use the hashtags #FPM2015 and #2G2BT for “2 Good 2 Be True”, or #TBPEV, “Trop beau pour être vrai”.

The Honorable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, Minister of National Revenue, sent out a press release detailing the types of fraud that are common during tax season and encouraging Canadians to stay vigilant. Minister Findlay reminded taxpayers that the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) does not send information about refunds or ask for personal information via email, and if they do make phone calls, they will not leave any sensitive information on an answering machine. Any of these things are signs of fraud and should be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has released a list of the most common scams of 2014 so that Canadians can avoid falling victim to them in the future. They include:

  • Arrest scam: Someone calls you pretending to be a police officer or government agent who is coming to arrest you for overdue taxes or not showing up to jury duty. Canadians are reminded that neither the CRA nor the RCMP ever ask for payment over the phone.
  • Tech support scam: Never click on pop-up ads offering to fix problems on your computer, as they will install malware and give fraudsters access to your personal information.
  • “Calling yourself” scam: Using “phone spoofing”, scammers cause your own number to show up on your call display, confusing you enough that you pick up and give them a chance to run their scams.
  • Copycat website scam: Scammers are getting more technologically sophisticated, allowing them to create websites that look almost exactly like the websites of well-known companies. Don’t click on links in emails telling you about sales at a particular store. Instead, go directly to the store’s website by typing in the address.
  • Medical alert scam: Targeting elderly and disabled people, scammers make phone calls claiming that family members have ordered the person a medical alert device and they must now pay for it over the phone.

Both government agencies and police say that fraud cases have become more common over the past few years. For example, Calgary police received 2,881 complaints of fraud in 2012 and 3,052 in 2014. The national costs of fraud are estimated at around $15 to $30 billion each year, according to Equifax Canada.

If you are concerned about the potential effects of identity theft, signing up for a credit monitoring service can be a good way to ensure that you will be alerted to certain kinds of activity on your accounts.