Kathie Weiss-Lefebvre of Toronto got a tempting offer in her email this week. The sender claimed to be the Canada Revenue Agency and said she was set to receive a $896.70 tax refund by way of an Interac e-Transfer.
All she had to do was click on a link.
Fortunately, Weiss-Lefebvre knew immediately it was a scam: she hasn’t even filed her 2016 tax return. But she believes some people might fall for it.
“It’s the most convincing piece of spam that I’ve ever received,” she said. “It was very subtle, it didn’t have grammatical errors, it didn’t look badly sort of cut and pasted.”
The email included copies of both a Bank of Montreal and an Interac logo.
The CRA says there’s been a surge in this type of email scam this tax season. “It seems to be fairly widespread,” said spokesperson Paul Murphy.
He said the promised rebate could be enough to tempt someone to click on the link and fall into a trap.
Weiss-Lefebvre didn’t dare click. If she had, Murphy suspects it would have taken her to a web page where she would’ve been asked for personal details such as a credit card or social insurance number and/or banking information.
The fraudster could then use that information for criminal activity like identity theft.
Murphy said the CRA would never offer details about a tax rebate, request personal information or include an unsolicited link in an email.
Fraudsters strike twice
CRA scams aren’t new but fraudsters keep inventing new schemes, hoping to find just the right formula to trick taxpayers.
“They’ve been mutating, evolving, taking different angles and trying to persuade people that this is legitimate,” Murphy said.
A popular one for years involves a fraudster posing as a CRA agent on the phone.
The victim is told they owe money in taxes and must pay up quickly or their assets will be frozen and police will arrest them.
The RCMP says it noticed a huge decrease in this type of fraud last year, following the arrest of 70 people suspected of conducting tax scams at call centres in India.
However, the Mounties say the phone scam is once again on the rise and has spawned a new version: a fraudster posing as a CRA official emails a past victim and offers to refund the stolen money.
The catch: the victim has to pay a five per cent administration fee.
“They have no concern whatsoever for the impact on the victim,” said Sgt. John Mecher of the RCMP’s financial crimes unit in Milton, Ont.
Scammer to RCMP: stop interfering
Recently, a CRA phone scam victim who was bilked out of a whopping $100,000 in 2015 was speaking with an RCMP investigator when she revealed what she thought was good news.
“She says to us, ‘Oh, by the way, I think I’m going to be able to get a refund,'” Mecher said.