A threatening telephone scam masquerading as a call from the Canada Revenue Agency has rattled numerous Sarnians lately.
In the pre-recorded call, a person claims the receiver owes money in back taxes and adds in a threatening tone that failure to comply will result in an arrest warrant being issued.
The receiver is then directed to call a phone number with an Ottawa area code to make payment arrangements.
“This was such a threatening one,” said Sarnia resident Marylin Chiles, who recently received the call. “I thought, my goodness, a lot of people are going to be alarmed by that.”
The former music teacher and community volunteer said she recognized the call as a scam but is concerned others, especially vulnerable seniors and recent immigrants, could fall victim.
“So many people would be so frightened that they would do something,” she said. “This one was more threatening – not just threatening with more cost but actual arrest.”
Const. John Sottosanti of Sarnia Police said the back tax scam is a recurring one.
“Fortunately, that is not how Revenue Canada does anything,” he said, noting people panic when they hear threatened legal action.
“And that’s what these criminals thrive on – causing panic.”
Chiles said she and husband Vernon often get scam phone calls, but she went directly to police after the phony CRA pitch.
An officer told her she was the fifth person that day to report the threatened fraud, including one woman who was in tears, she said.
Yet for the most part city police are powerless to act.
“A lot of these criminals are from other countries, so we’re very limited in what we can do, if anything at all,” Const. Sottosanti said.
“In the past, we’ve had victims fall tens of thousands of dollars into it,” he added. “If anyone is forcing you to do something immediately, you know there’s something very wrong.”
The real Canada Revenue Agency advises Canadians to confirm the status of their tax accounts before taking any action that may be the result of pressure from suspicious phone calls or emails, and to verify the legitimacy of the communication by contacting the CRA directly at 1-800-959-8281.
If you’ve shared personal information, contact Equifax and Trans Union to place fraud alerts on your account.
And if you’ve shared banking information with scammers, contact your financial institution to place alerts on your account.
Chiles said she called Bell Canada to report the Ottawa number to the phone company’s fraud department.
While that outgoing number has since been shut down, new versions of the scam appear all the time, the CRA says.