Opinion: Fraud season never ends

The more information we have, the better equipped we are to protect ourselves and the ones we care about from falling victim to scams.

Although the busy tax season is over for another year, it seems the fraudsters don’t give up.

This week Chilliwack RCMP were again warning residents about a familiar scam that purports to come from the Canada Revenue Agency.

Unscrupulous individuals are preying on the elderly and vulnerable with stories of stiff fines and even jail time if their demands aren’t met.

Claiming to be representatives from the revenue agency, they demand immediate payment for taxes allegedly owed.  Failure to comply garners an angry and aggressive response, the RCMP say, with the caller even threatening to arrest the victim.

But here’s the catch.

The Canada Revenue Agency does not phone people. Nor do they threaten, berate, or try to scare people into compliance.

RCMP are warning people that if they get these calls, hang up. Don’t provide any personal information, and certainly don’t comply with demands for credit card payments.

“CRA officials will not threaten court charges, jail, or deportation to scare you into paying debt,” says Chilliwack RCMP’s Cpl. Mike Rail. “The CRA does not request prepaid credit cards.”

This scam is not new. It’s part of a pantheon of tactics used by criminals to separate the vulnerable from their money. Some attempts are so clumsy they are funny (like the wealthy aristocrat from overseas, looking for a safe place to send his money).

Others are more subtle, like the call from a distant relative (complete with name) who says he’s been injured while travelling in Europe and needs to be wired cash.

Still others can take weeks, even months to develop – time for relationships to be made and confidences to be ultimately betrayed.

Fortunately there are resources out there that help us identify potential frauds.  The CRA offers tips at www.cra-arc.gc.ca/fraudprevention, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is rich with information.

None of these offer guarantees.  But the more information we have, the better equipped we are to protect ourselves and the ones we care about from falling victim to these scams.