In recent months, I have heard from numerous constituents about persistent phone calls from people purporting to represent the Canada Revenue Agency.
Often, they demand payment for some alleged debt immediately, or to know your Social Insurance Number, and threaten legal or police action if they do not get it.
I want to make it perfectly clear that such phone calls are fraudulent and if you get one, you should never, EVER give your personal information over the phone, or by text or by email.
You should know that most of the time, the CRA doesn’t call you, they will write to you. Either way, the CRA will never threaten hasty legal action or threaten you or pressure you into acting immediately.
As hard as it is to hear these stories, it’s even harder to fix them. Once these unscrupulous fraudsters get what they called for, the damage is done.
But we are not without some power. If you get a phone call you think is a fraud, here are three things you can do:
-If you can, write down the phone number on display and note the time of day and what the caller is asking for. Get as much information from the caller as possible, but give them no information about you.
-Call my constituency office immediately at 705-673-7107, and my staff will be able to communicate with the CRA on your behalf. If you have received a fraudulent call, we will be able to tell you. If you have a legitimate issue with CRA, we can help you navigate it.
-Alert your friends, family and co-workers to let them know what happened. The best way to combat these fraudulent calls is to make as many people as possible aware of them and how they operate.
I understand it’s getting harder and harder to answer your phone these days. I get the same calls everyone else gets, and I am as annoyed as anyone.
The reality is, over the past several years, the Internet has made international calls a lot less expensive and most phone scammers now originate outside North America. More recently, "call spoofing," allows fraudsters around the world to input fake caller IDs to make it seem like they’re calling from the same area code as you. They have even expanded into texting.
To combat this, we each need to do our part. That means taking steps to protect ourselves, and watching out for others. It means reporting phone and text scammers to authorities and on our social networks so they can be exposed.
And remember, my constituency office in downtown Sudbury is there to help you connect with federal government services. If you’re not sure a phone call you receive is legitimate, let my staff know immediately and they can help you find out.
Paul Lefebvre is Member of Parliament for Sudbury and Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources.