Is that Letter from CRA Legit?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

Comes this time of year when you, the Canadian taxpayer, start to receive love letters from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requesting information or informing you of your tax debt if you hadn’t paid it on April 30th. Unfortunately, in this day and age of rampant scams, email and otherwise, you need to be diligent and don’t just answer that email or caller, or even that letter you received supposedly from CRA.

Email, Telephone, Letter Scams

CRA does NOT use email to contact individual taxpayers. The CRA has an automatic email system that sends out an email letting you know that you have Online Mail. This is the only time they will send you an email. The CRA will never use aggressive language or tone, ask for prepaid credit cards, threaten arrest or to send police in any correspondence. A CRA email notification will only advise you that you have correspondence to view in My Account. It will never ask for you to confirm information or click on a link. If you’re unsure, log into My Account and see if you have new mail to read.

The other email, and now a text, that goes around is a fake e-Interac transfer, CRA will never send you money via this method. It will be either a cheque, or direct deposit, which you must setup.

Fake letters are still going around, and they’re getting much better at it too. Someone showed me a letter he got from CRA, and this letter was so good it would’ve fooled me. It had their name, address, and it all looked very real. The letter even and a CRA number on it with 1-800-959, which many of their numbers start with. It had a balance owing, which made this person feel something wasn’t quite right; he usually gets refunds. This letter had the right language, and looked very legit. Fortunately, he called the CRA and found out, of course, it was fake.

Know how to recognize a scam

There are many fraud types, including new ones invented daily.

You should be vigilant when you receive, either by telephone, mail, text message or email, a fraudulent communication that claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requesting personal information such as a social insurance number, credit card number, bank account number, or passport number.

These scams may insist that this personal information is needed so that the taxpayer can receive a refund or a benefit payment. Cases of fraudulent communication could also involve threatening or coercive language to scare individuals into paying fictitious debt to the CRA. Other communications urge taxpayers to visit a fake CRA website where the taxpayer is then asked to verify their identity by entering personal information. These are scams and taxpayers should never respond to these fraudulent communications or click on any of the links provided.

To identify communications not from the CRA, be aware of these guidelines.

If you receive a call saying you owe money to the CRA, you can call us or check My Account to be sure.

If you have signed up for online mail (available through My Account, My Business Account, and Represent a Client), the CRA will do the following:

  • send a registration confirmation email to the address you provided for online mail service for an individual or a business; and
  • send an email to the address you provided to notify you when new online mail is available to view in the CRA's secure online services portal.

The CRA will not do the following:

  • send email with a link and ask you to divulge personal or financial information;
  • ask for personal information of any kind by email or text message.
  • request payments by prepaid credit cards.
  • give taxpayer information to another person, unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer.
  • leave personal information on an answering machine.

Exception:

If you call the CRA to request a form or a link for specific information, a CRA agent will forward the information you are requesting to your email during the telephone call. This is the only circumstance in which the CRA will send an email containing links.

Caller ID is a useful function. However, the information displayed can be altered by criminals. Never use only the displayed information to confirm the identity of the caller whether it be an individual, a company or a government entity.

The old cliché holds true, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What’s the Best Way to Get Away from these Scams?

When in doubt, ask yourself the following:

  • Did I sign up to receive online mail through My Account, My Business Account, or Represent a Client?
  • Did I provide my email address on my income tax and benefit return to receive mail online?
  • Am I expecting more money from the CRA?
  • Does this sound too good to be true?
  • Is the requester asking for information I would not provide in my tax return?
  • Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?

If you get a letter, or email from CRA, you do need to check its validity with CRA itself. Give them a call at their main numbers 1-800-959-8281 for individuals and 1-800-959-5525 for businesses.

The best way to alleviate any issues is to sign up for My Account, and then sign up for Online Mail.

My Account is a secure portal that lets you view your personal income tax and benefit information and manage your tax affairs online.

My Account is:

  • Convenient – It is available 21 hours a day, 7 days a week (see Hours of service).
  • Easy to use – After registering, simply log in with your CRA user ID and password.
  • Fast – Information is up-to-the-minute and transactions are processed immediately.
  • Secure – The CRA user ID and password are just part of the security.

You can also log in with a Sign-in Partner. This option lets you log in with a user ID and password that you may already have, such as for online banking.

Online mail is a simple to use service that allows individuals to receive most of their mail, like their notice of assessment or benefit notices, from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) directly in My Account.

When you sign up for online mail, the CRA will send you an email letting you know when you have new mail to view in My Account. Once you are signed up for online mail, you will go paperless since your correspondence will no longer be printed and mailed. Don’t worry - if your bank or anyone else needs a paper copy, all you need to do is log in to My Account and print or download a copy.

You will stop getting any physical mail, and never have to worry about mail theft from those crappy community mailboxes, or fake letters as you’ll know they’re fake as you don’t get physical mail from CRA anymore.

Be diligent with any correspondence you get from CRA, and always check with CRA when you get such correspondence. Signing up for My Account and Online Mail will definitely get you feeling more secure about not getting scams in the future.

If you do have concerns about correspondence from the CRA, call them at 1-800-959-8281 for individuals and 1-800-959-5525 for businesses.

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