BBB cautions businesses and consumers about common tax fraud
Last year, BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay received more than 14,000 inquiries and more than 50 complaints about tax return services and tax consultants. With the tax deadline around the corner, BBB is warning tax payers about scammers disguised as tax professionals.
Here are some common tax scams:
Email phishing: Scammers cleverly design realistic looking emails that closely resemble trustworthy tax businesses. In some cases, the emails say your taxes are overdue or incomplete and prompt you to click on a link to “verify” your information. The links are malicious and when clicked on, immediately install malware onto your computer.
In other cases, the email asks you for your financial and personal information in order to verify account information or claim a tax refund – in reality, scammers are looking to steal your identity to commit fraudulent activities under your name.
Example: The popular Canada Revenue Agency scam was BBB’s top scam in 2015, with $2.9 million lost by Canadians.*
Canada Revenue Agency Email: Consumers receive an email that is supposedly from Canada Revenue Agency informing the consumer that they are now able to claim their tax refund. Some emails will specify the monetary amount of the tax refund. Consumers are prompted to click on a link to fill out a form and submit personal information in order to claim the funds. Once the fraudsters receive your information, the consumer is left empty-handed.
“Fraudsters are hiding behind realistic looking logos and credible business names that are trusted by consumers,” says Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. “Scammers are picking up on our message to consumers to only deal with businesses they know and trust. It is crucial for consumers to pay attention to their initial suspicions and verify businesses before handing over money or personal information.”
Other Tax Scams:
Tax preparer fraud – A flyer in the mail, an email or even a phone call that advertises a tax specialist offering a high return for your money at a reduced rate.
False tax refunds or beneficiary payments – An unsolicited email or text message phishing for your personal and financial information that is needed to “verify” your identity or claim a tax refund or beneficiary payment.
False audit notifications – Consumers and businesses receive aggressive calls or emails demanding immediate payment to avoid a fine. If no payment is made, scammers threaten to have you arrested, or even deported if you’re new to the country.
Here’s how to protect yourself:
Be wary of unsolicited messages. Remember that a legitimate tax professional or agency will not ask for your personal information via email or text message. Do not open suspicious email attachments or links as they could be loaded with viruses and malware.
Do the math. If the details of a suspicious message don’t add up with what the official tax agency or professional says, chances are it’s a scam. Always contact the official business to verify information and claims.
Ask yourself questions. Did I provide my email address on my income tax and benefit return to receive mail online? Am I expecting more money from the CRA? Is the requester asking for information I would not provide in my tax return? Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?
If you have become a victim of fraud, notify your BBB and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
For tips you can trust, visit bbb.org.