The one organization you would think that you should be able to trust with your information is the government – but this couldn’t be further from the truth where CRA is concerned. Wait until you read this!
In the past (and we have been unable to confirm if the practice has changed since this news story exploded) taxpayers have reported that when contacted by CRA the agent will first ask for the taxpayer by name. Once the taxpayer says it is them, CRA goes on to ask to verify their identity by requesting confirmation of their social insurance number!!! Yes… it goes exactly like this:
- CRA: Hello, may I please speak with Mr. Taxpayer?
- Mr. Taxpayer: This is he, how may I help you.
- CRA: Before I can continue this call can you please confirm your social insurance number for identity verification purposes?
My next comment would be – you called me? How do I know who you are or that you are calling from CRA?
How CRA could not think that this could or would set the stage for a major problem for taxpayers is unfathomable because guess what the latest scheme is – fraudsters are now calling taxpayers, purporting to be CRA and requesting personal information. You can read the full Huffington Post piece or watch a video on the subject here http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/04/02/income-tax-deadline-canada-revenue-agency_n_5080901.html
So the next logical question is this: if CRA collections is contacting you, how can you protect your information? Well this is a twofold issue. The issue concerning asking you to validate your identity by providing personal information when they are calling you is a quick fix – ask the agent for their name, agent number and telephone number at CRA and advise them that you will call them back and once you have verified their identity you will verify yours.
The second issue is that once you have verified your identity and you confirm that you are talking to CRA a couple of things will take place (if they haven’t already):
- When calling in to CRA, they will ask for more than your SIN to verify identity.
- If you are dealing with a CRA collector, once they have your name and SIN they can easily obtain whatever information they are missing from you, such as your address, employment and other details that they can use to take enforcement action against you.
Tread lightly when talking with CRA. CRA generally does not phone taxpayers when collecting money. Audits, re-assessments, requests for proof of information almost always come by way of letter. If CRA is calling you it is likely because you owe them money and that very fact alone means that you are vulnerable to more than just the fraudster’s piggy-backing on CRA lax process. CRA collectors will lay hidden traps in their questioning – after all, their job is to collect and they may try and trick information out of you that they will then use against you.
Example: The collector says: “you are currently employed by ABC Company.”
Incorrect Answer: “No I am working at XYZ Manufacturing in Brampton.” Bang. You just told CRA where to go and garnishee your wages.
Correct Answer (never lie): “No.”
Collector: “Oh. Where do you work now”.
Correct Answer: “I do not feel comfortable telling you that right now. I need to know more of what this call is about.”
The message here is first you need to sort out is it really CRA? Then not shoot holes in your own feet trying to be helpful. You have to know how to establish the issues and set the appropriate boundaries to ensure your rights are respected.
If CRA is calling you, you may want to consider getting some professional advice about your tax problem before speaking with them.