The CRA scam has been circulating for years. (Black Press file photo)

Chilliwack senior saved from costly CRA scam by Good Samaritan

Woman sees elderly gentleman counting a big stack of pre-paid cards and warns store staff

A Chilliwack woman says she knew the older gentleman in the store lineup was being scammed.

Suzi Peterson said she spotted the man counting out a big handful of pre-paid gift cards at the local Walmart on Monday.

“It just felt wrong,” Peterson said.

It wasn’t just one or two gift cards, maybe destined for his grandkids. It was a huge stack of $50 cards. But she didn’t want to scare him by approaching him directly so she had a discreet word with one of the store staff, who took the matter to a manager.

“I notified staff to make sure he wasn’t being scammed, and sure enough he was,” Peterson posted on Facebook.

The comments and reactions to her public post have been exceedingly positive.

“Thank you for noticing and saying something,” said one person.

”Well done,” chimed in another. “My in-laws were burned too.”

“Thank you for caring enough,” said a poster.

The long-running CRA scam often sees vulnerable seniors being preyed upon by con artists who tell them they’re being investigated for unpaid taxes and their assets will be seized. The fraudsters often threaten them until they agree to send pre-paid cards to erase an imaginary outstanding debt with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Peterson was adamant about not letting this man be taken in by unscrupulous criminals.

The staff member asked him casually why he was buying the cards, and he said it was for the CRA.

“I just knew something was wrong! The staff was very good about it, and they told him it was a scam,” she recounted.

The man still ended up buying one card, but put the rest back.

Peterson says she knew there was something up because they had tried out the same scam on her six months ago, and she told the CRA impersonators to “pound sand” when they said police would soon be at her door.

“I can’t believe this scam is still happening,” Peterson said.

“It was so prevalent for years, but many people still need to become aware that the scam is still out there. Tell your neighbours and don’t let our seniors become victims,” she wrote on Facebook.

“Please make your parents, grandparents, older friends, aunts, uncles, any senior you are acquainted with, aware that this is a scam,” she said, “Please tell someone if they get a call asking them to purchase anything at all to ignore it.”

In fact, the CRA may call or mail people, but it will never aggressively demand prepaid cards.

CRA communications spokesperson Gurm Kundan stated that the CRA “takes scams very seriously.”

“It recognizes that there is financial impact on a person who falls victim to a scammer and that it is deeply upsetting to be scammed,” wrote Kundan in an emailed statement.

Telephone scams involve threatening taxpayers or using aggressive and forceful language to scare them into paying a fictitious debt to the CRA.

“Victims receive a phone call from a person claiming to work for the CRA and saying that taxes are owed. The caller requests immediate payment by credit card, a prepaid credit card, or a gift card and threatens the taxpayer with immediate police arrest, jail time, court charges or deportation,” wrote the CRA official. “These types of communication are not from the CRA.”

The CRA officials are required to serve taxpayers with a high degree of “accuracy, professionalism and courteousness,” he added.

For the record, the CRA may:

• call to begin an audit process

• call to request payment in full or to discuss a payment arrangement

• verify your identity by asking for personal information such as your full name, date of birth, address and account, or social insurance number

• ask for financial information to support ability to pay

• request payment for a tax debt through any of the CRA’s payment options

• send legal warning letters after initial attempts to contact the taxpayer have been unsuccessful

• take legal action to recover the money you owe if you refuse to pay your debt

The CRA will never:

• use aggressive language or threaten you with arrest or sending the police

• ask for information about your passport, health card, or driver’s license

• demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others

•leave voicemails that are threatening or give personal or financial information

•use or instant messaging such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to communicate with taxpayers under any circumstance

How to ensure the caller is a CRA employee:

• Ask for, or make a note of, the caller’s name, phone number, and office location and tell them that you want to first verify their identity

• You can then check that the individual calling you about your taxes works for the CRA or that the CRA did contact you by calling 1-800-959-8281 for individuals or 1-800-959-5525 for businesses. If the call you received was about a government program such as Student Loans or Employment Insurance, call 1-866-864-5823. For more check out The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or call 1-888-495-8501

* Please note that this is a corrected version of the online story. An earlier version contained the assertion that the CRA does not call Canadians about their tax returns, but in fact they do.

READ MORE: CRA scam hit Chilliwack

READ MORE: It’s an old scam circulating again


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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