Ron Clarke is a Trail Times columnist.

Ron Clarke is a Trail Times columnist.

Did you say Tax Season, or Scam Season?

Tax season is a good time to talk about electronic security.

By Ron Clarke

In light of the recent precautionary action taken by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in February, it may be wise to talk about electronic security.

As a reminder, in mid February CRA suspended 100,000 taxpayers having on-line services with CRA because of the discovery that those taxpayers’ email addresses matched up to stolen emails being sold on the black web. CRA had not been hacked but other third parties had been hacked and CRA temporarily shut down access to these taxpayers’ accounts to secure the taxpayers’ data.

In the end, no one was comprised – a happy ending. However, not all cyber threats end so smoothly, then again who knows if this is actually over?

Of course in addition to the ever present hidden threats rolling around in cyber space like the one just described, there is the constant barrage of “in your face” scams designed to steal your money, or worse, your identity.

At the best of times, scams run rampant. Add tax time to the picture, and the scams ramp up. Now add COVID-19 government relief measures, organizations fund raising, and businesses selling goods and services, and the scams have been multiplying exponentially.

In light of this reality, here’s some insight on how to identify and protect yourself from targeted scammers masquerading as CRA.

Generally, CRA will never demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards. CRA will never set up a meeting with you to pick up a payment. CRA will never use aggressive language or send the police or threaten arrest or prison sentence.

Specifically by phone, CRA will never leave voicemails that state personal or financial information designed to anger or entice you to call back.

Specifically by email, CRA will never give or ask for personal or financial information. CRA will never ask you to reply to an email or click on a link asking you to fill in an online form with personal or financial details. CRA will never send you an email with a link to your refund. CRA will never ask you to open an attachment.

As a tip, 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.

CRA will never use text messages or instant messaging such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to communicate with taxpayers about tax-related issues under any circumstance. If you receive text or instant message claiming to be from the CRA, it’s a scam.

As you consider any message on your computer or phone, or listen to a person on your phone, or read a letter from your mail 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, charities and not-for-profits, and even businesses. They are all subject to being impersonated by scammers.

Do your research before committing.

Ron Clarke has his MBA and is owner of JBS Business Services in Trail, providing accounting and tax services.

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