Police Warning Residents to Beware of Frightening Scam

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Phone call, email, text message or even snail mail - Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are warning residents to beware of this potentially frightening way that criminals are trying to extort money from victims through a very common scam.

It's especially important to be vigilant this tax season, as the popular Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and other extortion scams are prevalent right now.

OPP says that you should always confirm who you're dealing with before you send anyone or anything money for any reason.

According to police, the frightening CRA scam in particular continues to attack unsuspecting victims, who end up with significant financial losses.

Here's how the scam works:

"In the typical CRA scam, the criminals extort money from their victims by telephone, mail, text message or email, a fraudulent communication that claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency requesting personal information such as a social insurance number, credit card number, bank account number, or passport number," say police.

Fraudsters go so far as to leave prerecorded, clear messages on victims' voicemails, impersonating the CRA, phishing for yoour identification or demanded outstanding taxes are paid by a money service business or pre-paid debit or credit cards.

"They may insist that this personal information is needed so that the taxpayer can receive a refund or a benefit payment," say police.

You may also receive a text or other communication where you're urged to visit a fake CRA website and input a ton of personal information for "verification" purposes.

The potentially frightening part is that these communications can also involve threatening or coercive language to get victims to pay off fictitious debt.

Police say that everyone should first think "this is a scam" when they receive any kind of communication claiming to be from the CRA.

Police also say that the key is not to respond to any of these communications - the CRA will never request by email, text or phone, any personal information such as passport, credit card or bank account information.

Warning signs of the CRA scam are urgency (the scammer might say something like "the police are on their way to arrest you to get you to fork up cash and personal information), and requests for a money transfer (they might ask for a transfer through Money Gram, Western Union, or even through your own banking insitution).

Most importantly, you should never respond to any of these fraudulent communications or click on any of the links provided.

"To avoid becoming a victim, police advise you to hang up, check and verify the information with CRA by calling a trusted phone number in which you have found and not the number provided by the caller," say police.

According to police, statistics from last year say that the Extortion and Phishing Scam claimed 1,544 victims in Ontario losing approximately $3 million from more than 8,576 complaints, but only 5 per cent of the crimes are actually reported.

If you or someone you know suspect they've been a victim of the CRA scam, check with a Canada Revenue Agency official, and contact your local police service and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), or online.

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