When an apparent CRA Scam isn't a scam

16 February 2018 · Phishing and Fraud

This is our peak time for tax phishing scams. Our clients send us suspected phishing emails through plugins for Outlook, Google, O365, and other e-mail clients. We also receive a lot of requests about suspicious phone calls, voicemails, and SMS messages. We also train clients to avoid scams -- including CRA phishing simulations. More often than not, calls that seem weird are fraudulent -- except for this one.

One legitimate voicemail that is often disregarded as a scam is from CRA collections. It bears all the hallmarks of a scam: it has a sense of urgency, requests a call-back at a different number, is an unexpected phone call when most CRA communication happens by mail, and requests confidential information. These are all warning signs that the CRA encourages Canadians to question. However, in some cases, it's actually legitimate.

The number most frequently reported to us is 1-800-959-2250. We have contacted the CRA directly and have verified that this number is a legitimate CRA number -- although it's not listed on the CRA websites. It is used for first level collection notifications. Often, a taxpayer received a reassessment notice and is waiting for requested documents to be reviewed. This can take up to 90 days. If you or your accountant sent the requested documents, it's a good idea to call the CRA collections department back to put a hold on collection actions while documents are being reviewed. This will avoid reports to credit agencies and avoid additional collection actions.

The best practice when you're in doubt is to call the company/government office directly from a number listed on an official website (not in an email or from a link in an email or SMS). Primary CRA phone numbers are listed at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/corporate/contact-information/telephone-numbers.html

Additional information about CRA phishing and fraud is available on the CRA website.