Ron Clarke is a Trail Times columnist.

COVID-19: The Spread of Scams

At the best of times, scams seeking your personal information and cash, run rampant.

At the best of times, scams seeking your personal information and cash, run rampant.

Add tax time to the picture, and the scams ramp up.

And if that isn’t enough, add a multitude of new government benefits as relief measures for a pandemic plus organizations needing funding or businesses selling goods and services, and, well, the scams multiply as fast as the viral virus does.

Scammers use the internet, social media, email, text, phone, and Canada Post. Here are some best practice tips to navigate the unsolicited communications you receive.

Since it is tax time, specific to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), you will not be contacted via phone or email. Having said this, there are some particular exceptions.

First, if you have set up your CRA personal “My Account” or your “My Business Account” and committed to email communications, with emphasis on “committed” as in agreed to receive email communications from CRA, you will receive emails from CRA.

However, there are never direct links or attachments included in CRA emails. These emails only give direction for you to log into your CRA account regarding a message needing your attention.

Second, once you are handling a current situation with CRA, the ongoing contact with CRA may involve emails as noted above, and phone calls from CRA reps who will always identify themselves by rep number and office location.

When a CRA rep calls you, you will not be asked for your personal information.

It’s only when you call CRA directly that you are asked for your personal information.

Phishing through the internet and cell service is the act of broadcasting masquerading websites, links and messages in an attempt to have you supply your information, make a direct payment, or corrupt your software on your computer or phone.

To combat phishing, use a spam filter and firewall software, and keep it current since things change so fast. However, when you update this software, or any software for that matter, be sure you connect with the actual software supplier, and not a scammer.

As you ponder the message you have received, before you open, click or answer, look at the messaging for poor spelling, grammar, math and images. And don’t skim read. Actually read it word for word so you have a better chance of spotting errors.

Review the email address itself for oddities. By the way, hotmail and gmail are not used by governments, and remember, government messages have no links within the email and no documents attached.

As you consider the message on your computer or phone, or listen to the person on your phone, or read a mailer from your post box, don’t jump to the conclusion that whoever is contacting you is really who they say they are.

This applies to CRA and other government agencies, businesses, and even charities and not-for-profits. They are all subject to being impersonated by scammers to take advantage of you.

Be a critical thinker. If you are pressured to give money or personal information, if you are offered unbelievable deals on products and winning consultative expertise, if you are threatened with punitive actions if you don’t act, trust your instincts and stop.

Once you stop, and if you’re so inclined, go and do your own research.

If satisfied, then you initiate the contact.

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