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Top Tips for Protecting Yourself From COVID-19 Related Scams

March 24, 2021

Fraudsters and cybercriminals are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get a hold of your personal and financial information to use for their criminal activities. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has created more opportunities for these fraudsters and cybercriminals to mimic government-related agencies, such as Service Canada, Canada Revenue Agency, even 1-800 O-Canada to persuade you to share your personal information with them.

What clues should you look out for?

Be very cautious if you receive a phone call, piece of mail, text message or email, claiming to be from Service Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or any other government agency requesting you share your personal information such as your social insurance number, credit card number, bank account number, or passport number. More often than not, these types of communications are typically fraudulent in nature.

Fraudsters and cybercriminals will insist that your personal information is needed to verify your identity so that they can send you a tax refund or a benefit payment. Unfortunately, this is all part of their scheme in order to convince you to be forthcoming with your information. In addition, be also on the lookout for fraudulent communication involving aggressive or coercive language to scare you into paying a fictitious debt to the CRA. Many of these communications urge taxpayers to visit a phony CRA website where the taxpayer is then asked to verify their identity by entering personal information. 

It is important to recognize these warning signs and avoid falling victim to these types of scams. You should never respond to these fraudulent communications or click on any links sent to you via email or text message.

CRA has created a set of guidelines for you to be aware of in order to identify legitimate communications from them. To learn more, and to know what to expect when the CRA contacts you, please click here.

How to protect yourself from scams:

It is very important that you keep your personal information safe by limiting who you share it with. You should only provide your personal information when it is absolutely necessary. It may feel customary to provide your personal details when creating a new account online or elsewhere, but if that website or organization experiences a security breach, be aware that your personal information may fall into the wrong hands.   

What you share on the internet, primarily on social media platforms, may also provide an opportunity for scammers to try and obtain your personal information through fraudulent messages that may appear to come from trustworthy sources. These types of scams are referred to as “phishing” scams; it is one of the biggest issues when it comes to internet fraud and is often initiated by an email, text or instant message. Cybercriminals use social media to access the personal information you share within your account, such as your name, birthdate, workplace, and interests to target you with their scam. To avoid this kind of invasion, ensure to check and adjust your privacy settings and extra vigilant of bogus or unknown profiles.

How you should report a scam:

If you suspect that you may be the victim of a scam, we recommend you contact the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre to report it immediately. They can be reached by phone at 1-888-495-8501.

If your Social Insurance Number (SIN) has been stolen and used in a fraudulent manner, we recommend you contact Service Canada at 1-866-274-6627 immediately to report it.

What should you do if you have been scammed?

If you believe your personal information has been compromised and you think you’re at risk, we recommend you contact the financial institutions, credit card companies, and other relevant organizations you deal with to advise them of the situation. They will be able to advise you on what steps you can take next to help mitigate the damage. Keep a close eye on all of your accounts and monitor all the activity. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, report the suspicious activity immediately.

If you would like more information on this topic, please contact a member of the Empire CPA team by filling out the contact form below.

Canadian and foreign tax laws are complex and have a tendency to change on a frequent basis. As such, the content published above is believed to be accurate as of the date of this post. Before implementing any tax planning, please seek professional advice from a qualified tax professional. Empire, Chartered Professional Accountants will not accept any liability for any tax ramifications that may result from acting based on the information contained above.

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