If you have a cell phone or land line, chances are you’ve received a call from the CRA saying that you owe taxes.   If you haven’t, you’re lucky and you can expect the call any day now.  This is one of the most prolific scams targeting Canada at the moment and was recently exposed by a CBC investigation.

The call, if you’ve not experienced it yet is what’s called a Robocall.   It’s a recording or a computer-generated voice which states that you have taxes owing and that you will be arrested if you don’t make immediate payment.

In the last 5 years, 60,000 Canadians have complained about these calls and it’s estimated that over $10 million dollars have been stolen via the scam!

The CBC investigation tracked the robo-callers to an apartment block in Mumbai.   Here, in the slums, ex-call center workers are waiting to receive calls back from vulnerable Canadians who’ve fallen for the scam.   Call center employees are recruited as their level of English and experience with western cultures makes them sound more believable.   They’re paid a commission based on the amount of money they’re able to scam – often making a month’s salary in a day!   With all this money being made, the gangs behind the scams are obviously keen not to get caught.   By basing their operations in nondescript apartments and small offices, they draw less attention and are able to move quickly if they suspect they’re being tracked.

So, what happens if you fall for the scam and call them to make payment?   Well they’ll start by intimidating you – threatening arrest, and stressing that you must pay quickly.   They may offer to reduce the fine if you pay straight away.   As soon as you call, and start giving them details, other members of the team will start researching you and your area.   They may look on social media to find out anything they can about you and use it to try and convince you that the CRA fine is legitimate.   If you say that you want to hang up and call your accountant, they have technology that can block the line, so that when you hang up and place a call – you go straight back to the scammers.   Here they’ll pretend to be your accountant’s office.   They’ll confirm the fine and use the personal details they just researched from social media to back up the claim.

In fact, the scam is so convincing that individuals have been coerced into paying thousands of dollars!

Now they don’t want the payments to be tracked, so they’ll give instruction on how to make payment via Bitcoin.   These payments are anonymous and make it impossible to track where the money goes.   They’ll research your local area and direct you to local banks where they’ll tell you to withdraw money to make payment.   They’ll advise you that if the banks get suspicious, you should say that you’re withdrawing the money for purchases such as furniture.

Really – you should be getting super suspicious right now!  Bitcoin? Excuses for the bank? Does this sound like the CRA to you?

The CRA have the following advice on their website:

The CRA will not do the following:

  • Send an 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.


My best advice is to use common sense and trust nobody.   If you receive a suspicious call, hang up.  If you’re worried it might be legitimate, then call the CRA yourself at the number on their website.   And that advice goes for any suspicious call – not just the CRA example.    You can’t trust a caller as there’s no way to truly know who they are.   The only safe way is for you to contact them direct at a publicly available number.

Until next time – watch out for the scammers!