A local resident is out nearly $10,000 after falling prey to a phone scam that has reportedly made the rounds across Canada this tax season.
On Monday, April 30, Whistler RCMP was notified of the fraud, in which a caller posing as a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) agent demanded “immediate payment for back-taxes,” police said.
The woman, a 30-year-old server whose identity Pique has agreed to protect, said she had already been discussing her annual tax filing with her accountant and the CRA that day when she got a voicemail several hours later from a man claiming to be an officer with the federal agency. After calling the Alberta number back, she spoke with the same man, who told her a warrant was out for her arrest for tax fraud and a number of other violations that could result in up to $50,000 in fines. If she complied with the demands—which included directions not to mute the call or talk to bystanders—he said the penalties could be lowered and the criminal charges dropped.
Throughout the three-and-a-half-hour call, the woman spoke with two individuals, a man and a woman, who stayed on the line as she walked from her place of work to the bank, and then to a Bitcoin machine in the Summit Lodge, where she deposited and transferred cash in $1,000 increments.
Bitcoin is a decentralized digital cryptocurrency that allows for users’ identities to remain private. Bitcoin payments are irreversible, and can only be refunded by the person receiving the funds.
Although she recognized there were several warning signs throughout the ordeal, the woman said she was in such a state of panic that she initially dismissed them.
“There were so many red flags, and I feel so stupid now,” she said.
The server also noted that the scammers had an answer prepared for each of her questions. When she asked why she hadn’t received a notice in the mail, she was told it had been sent to a previous address. When she asked why the CRA required funds to be sent in Bitcoin, she was told that the agency had introduced new software to keep pace with recent advancements in global currency.
She was repeatedly reminded that the scammers “were only trying to help me, and that if I didn’t want their help, I could walk into the nearest RCMP detachment and be arrested on the spot.”
She said she’s now speaking up in hopes that her experience can be a lesson to others.
Similar scams occur across the country year-round, but they typically increase in frequency during tax season. Scammers will use emails, phone calls, and text messages seeking money and personal information.
The CRA, however, will never send payment notices or ask for sensitive information through email, texts or phone calls. Notices are delivered by mail, or through the CRA website’s “My Account” services.
The RCMP, which began tracking CRA scams four years ago, report that there have been over 56,000 complaints to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and a reported loss of over $10 million since 2014.
The matter remains under investigation, police confirmed.