It’s income tax season and unfortunately with that comes a spike in phone scam calls. Greater Sudbury Police Service is reminding the public to be wary of anyone who calls claiming to work for the CRA.
The scam begins with a threatening phone call or voicemail indicating that a lawsuit has been filed due to unpaid income taxes and if the individual does not comply, an arrest warrant will be issued.
The tactic has many Sudburians falling victim.
Ron Chartrand, the owner of The Computer Nook, a tech store at 1855 Lasalle Blvd. in New Sudbury, said he’s stopped more than a dozen people from spending thousands of dollars on Bitcoins from the Bitcoin Teller Machine (BTM) that is located inside his business.
Turns out, scammers are directing people to convert their cash into Bitcoin, a digital cryptocurrency that has been in the news much lately when the value of this new kind of money skyrocketed in recent months to more than $11,000 a Bitcoin.
There is only one Bitcoin machine in Sudbury and Chartrand said he's had to step in several times to stop people from getting caught in the CRA phone scam. He even posted signs on the machine, as well as on the wall behind the machine, that warn people about the scam.
“One young lady came in yesterday,” Chartrand said March 23. “I saw she was on the phone so I pointed to the sign … she read it, hung up the phone and left.”
Currently, one Bitcoin is worth approximately $11,000 CAD, but it is possible to purchase fractions of a coin. While not widely known (and perhaps not widely understood by the general public), so-called cryptocurrencies are being called the cash of the future in some circles. And while not widely nknown, Bitcoins are accepted at thousands of online retailers, including Microsoft and KFC.
Similar phone scam calls demand payment be made in gift cards or prepaid credit cards, but the Bitcoin is becoming a common element of the scam.
“It started more so in Southern Ontario, but it has moved up to Sudbury,” GSPS Detective-Constable Chantal St. Martin told Sudbury.com. “We don’t have any reported cases that I know of personally in Sudbury at this point, but I’m sure it’s coming.”
Sudbury.com has a reported case, and it's thanks to one Sudbury man who took it upon himself to troll one of the scammers and record how the scam unfolds.
Norm Cardinal received a recorded message from someone posing as a CRA representative who said he needed to call them back to discuss resolution or he’d be arrested. That's when he decided to give the scammers a taste of their own medicine.
“I knew it was bogus,” Cardinal said. “But I wanted to see how far the call went.”
So he dialled the number that was left in the threatening message, 226-215-4139.
“I wanted to waste their time.” he said. “The longer I’m on with him, that’s one less person they can get.”
Cardinal recorded the entire conversation, which lasted close to 50-minutes, and shared it on Facebook in hopes of exposing the scam and saving others from becoming victims.
Watch Sudbury.com’s video below to see how the scammers directed him to the Bitcoin Teller Machine (BTM) in The Computer Nook. According to scammer though, BTM stands for Back Tax Machine.
All we can say is, way to go Norm Cardinal. You win the internet this week. And hats off to Ron Chartrand, owner of The Computer Nook, for preventing so many Sudburians from losing thousands and thousands of dollars.
A few tips from police
The Canada Revenue Agency will never:
- Request prepaid credit cards or money transfers;
- Ask for information about your passport, health card, or driver's license; nor
- Leave personal information on your answering machine or ask you to leave a message containing your personal information on an answering machine.
If you have been victimized or someone has made you feel intimidated, contact the police service at 705-675-9171.
For information on scams and tips to avoid being scammed, you can visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center website or call 1-888-495-8501.