New twist on CRA scam
The Calgary Police Service is warning citizens about a new technique used by scammers involving the payment of fake debts with iTunes gift cards.
Between Wednesday, June 1, 2016, and Thursday, July 21, 2016, 44 victims lost over $140,000 in Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) scams. In 96 per cent of the cases, victims lost their money – over $132,000 – to scammers using this new method.
The scam remains very similar to previous CRA and Immigration scams seen in Calgary, however, it differs when the victim is pressured to give money. Instead of being asked to transfer money, the victim is told to purchase large quantities of iTunes, or other gift cards, and provide the activation codes. The scammer then resells these codes on the black market.
Scammers continue to use very aggressive tactics to pressure victims into providing money. In many cases, the fraudsters threaten victims with arrest warrants or possible deportation if the ‘fines’ are not paid immediately. They keep their victims on the phone for long durations, sometimes hours at a time, until they receive their money or activation codes. Scammers often claim that the victim is being watched and tell them not to communicate with anyone, including friends, family or police.
Victims are even convinced that this is a special ‘deal’, and if authorities were to find out they would be immediately sentenced to jail or deported. Victims may receive multiple fake phone calls from people claiming to be with the CRA and the police to make the scam seem more legitimate. In some instances, scammers also threaten the victim and members of their family with violence.
In one recent case, a victim lost $19,700 to this scam ($15,700 worth of iTunes gift cards and $4,000 worth of Best Buy gift cards). In this case, the scammer made multiple phone calls to the victim, threatening them with extreme court fees if the fines were not paid immediately. Unfortunately, the victim contacted police after they had already lost their money.
Citizens should be aware:
- The CRA or CIC will never ask for payment via iTunes cards, other gift cards or prepaid credit cards.
- If you are contacted and told you owe money, always confirm with CRA or CIC directly. Look up the official numbers online and do not use the numbers provided to you by the potential scammer.
- Do not feel pressure to provide any money until you’ve determined if the debt is real. Take your time to talk to trusted friends and family. Legitimate requests will not be that urgent.
- Always report it to police. If you have lost money, call 403-266-1234. If you received a phone call or email that you believe to be a scam but have not lost money, you can report it online at www.calgarypolice.ca
- If your workplace sells gift cards be on the lookout for potential victims and inform them about this scam. Victims may seem very stressed and agitated, be on the phone and purchasing a large amount of gift cards.