Nearly 70 per cent of Canadians received a tax refund, making them an easy target for fraud.
Last Tuesday I opened my email to discover a correspondence from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) stating that, due to a miscalculation during my tax filing last month, I had an additional $458 of my refund waiting to be deposited. All that I needed to do to access the money was “sign-in” and verify my banking details.
I almost clicked on the link. Who wouldn’t? Free money, right?
But, my spidey senses took over, and I stopped my frugal little self. I quickly recalled my cybersecurity research from last fall and performed the “S-C-A-M” check.
S — Do I recognize the sender’s email address?
No, I’ve never received an email from the CRA from this email address.
Tip: An unrecognized email address could be a fraudster in disguise. Check it against your list of saved contacts.
C — Have they asked for my confidential details?
Yes, they asked me to share my banking details.
Tip: Legitimate organizations will NEVER ask you to share your private information through email. Instead, they will notify you to log into your secure account and update your details on their protected site.
A — Is the email specifically addressed to me?
No. It doesn’t use my name anywhere.
Tip: Fraudsters generally won’t take the time to customize their scam emails. You’ll find many of them generally addressed to “Dear Sir/Madam,” “To Whom it May Concern,” or simply “Hello.”
M — Are there mistakes within the message?
Yes. There are grammatical errors. The sender also states the CRA is not able to deposit money into my bank account, even though my tax refund was deposited just two weeks ago without incident.
Tip: Many phishing emails, which are another way to say email scamming, have grammar and spelling errors throughout their messages. According to Cisco, this has much to do with using internet translation services like Google Translate, which are far from fool-proof. For example, if the fraudster is located in Russia and only speaks Russian, they will quickly translate their email text using an internet translation service, rather than paying for a professional translation service.
Close the loop
Because I used the S-C-A-M review and common sense, I knew that I had a digital scam on my hands. I then sleuthed one step further and went straight to the source I knew would be 100 per cent real — the CRA My Account website.
Using my secure login, I checked my official personal communication, and voila, the last note I had from the CRA was over three week ago, acknowledging my tax refund. Then, I contacted the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre about the incident, with the hope no one else falls victim.
Law enforcement officials have warned Canadians that digital scam artists are in full force right now because Canadians have full wallets. Nearly 70 per cent of us recently received tax refunds that averaged $1,670 . Because we are flush with cash, we make really good candidates for a financial scam.
Extra tip: Lucky you if you received a tax refund! Rather than blowing it on a trip to Vegas, why not adopt the one-third rule? Split the value into equal thirds — one third for saving, one third for spending and the last third for debt reduction.
Published in The Star May 14, 2018.
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