No, the CRA doesn't send or receive payments using e-Transfers. Any email or text message claiming to be from the CRA asking for payment or offering a refund is a scam. Ignore and delete it, and don't click on links or attachments.
Email scams are rampant and diverse. Mass email scams are easy to send out by the millions, and usually, resemble alerts or good news from a financial institution or the CRA. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre offers detailed information on its Fraud Types page. Among email and text message scams, "phishing" techniques are most common‚ more on phishing below.
These days, online email services are much more effective at deleting mass scam emails and garden variety spam. Most of these messages never make it to your inbox. Email services like Gmail and Outlook are good at catching suspicious emails. But if you use an ISP (such as Videotron, Cogeco, TekSavvy), and an older system with a desktop email app, you won't benefit from the same level of security.
In fact, there's a higher risk of downloading viruses and spam. Less computer-savvy people may not easily recognize e-Transfer and other financial scams in their email and text messages.
Switching to a comprehensive email platform like Gmail or Outlook online makes sense, even for small businesses and the self-employed. Here's why:
The CRA doesn't send or receive payments using e-Transfers. It only makes direct deposits to the bank account you provided when you signed up for the service. Otherwise, you'll get a cheque in the mail.
According to Interac's fraud page, "The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) does NOT use the Interac e-Transfer service to collect or disburse payments. If you receive an email stating that the CRA is trying to send you money or verify personal information, do not respond."
Visit the CRA's website to see examples of e-Transfer scam emails. The CRA also makes the following statement: "The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will never send or request e-Transfers of any kind. The CRA will only send you payments by direct deposit or by cheque in the mail. If you receive an e-Transfer claiming to be from the CRA like the example below, it's a scam!"
Email scams are commonly known as "phishing" scams. Frequently, criminals present official-looking information to hook victims and make them click on a link that opens a web page. The page asks visitors to enter financial and personal information. Indeed, it's a "fishing" expedition for credit card numbers and personal information, used for identity theft or resale.
If you move your mouse cursor over a link in a scam email (without clicking on it), there's a good chance the link displayed will be some strange web address. That's a clear sign of a scam. For example, if you move your mouse over "www.bmo.com/main/personal/mortgages," you should be able to see the underlying address, "www.maelstrom.to/xyz." Anyone can make a scam web address look genuine by manipulating its display text (name) in the email.
Other scams might only change one letter of a genuine web link, which is harder to detect. For example, in "www.bom.com/main/personal/mortgages," the link and underlying address are the same and look legitimate. But we replaced "bmo" with "bom," which has nothing to do with the Bank of Montreal.
Here are some basic tips to help you recognize email and text message scams:
Your first line of defence is to delete emails and links that ask you to log in, enter information or open attachments. Also ignore messages from recipients you don't know, or that demand or promise money or refunds.¬†
The CRA publishes extensive information on how to protect yourself from fraud. The CRA says it will never:
The CRA only uses email to notify taxpayers when a document or notice is available. You must sign up to receive notifications. The only time you would get an email link is after asking an agent for a form or publication and giving out your email address. The CRA does not communicate via text message for any reason. In How to spot a phishing scam from the so-called taxman, Moneysense.ca offers a useful compilation of e-Transfer scam examples and genuine CRA emails.
The CRA also has a list of common-sense questions to ask yourself before acting:
If you are the victim of an email scam demanding payment or promising a refund, you can contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) online or call 1-888-495-8501 during business hours. If you have online access to your government account, you can report a scam to the CAFC using your existing government login. The CAFC is jointly managed by the RCMP, the Competition Bureau and the OPP.
If you lost money in a tax scam, you'll need to report it to police authorities, as it's a criminal matter, and not something the CRA can act on. Police forces have cyber-crime divisions that deal with online crimes. Consequently, you may get a case number and follow-ups from cyber-crime specialists in your area. You can also report an incident to the CAFC.
The CRA doesn't handle email scam reports. It only shares information with the CAFC and law enforcement agencies about scams and alerts the public on its website and through the media.
If you receive a CRA email or text message scam offering a refund or demanding payment, do not respond. Instead, do the following:
The CRA's main phone number for individual taxpayer questions is 1-800-959-8281. The website also lists several other essential CRA phone numbers.
If someone contacts you through a message or phone call pretending to be a CRA agent and demanding payment, your first line of defense is the police. Most police forces have cyber-crime divisions and you would likely hear from these specialists if you're a victim.
If you receive an email or text message demanding payment from the CRA, you can safely ignore it since it's a scam. Still not sure? You can contact the CRA or log into your CRA account to confirm any payments due or refunds.
If you suspect illegal access to your tax information, contact the CRA immediately. Thereupon, the CRA can disable online access to your information and services and help you change your CRA user ID or password.
According to the CAFC, people can report phishing and other email scams through the Spam Reporting Centre. They can also contact the enforcement departments of the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.