As tax season approaches, scammers will start hunting for potential targets — in many cases students.
Scammers often target students as many people in that demographic have a large presence online, meaning a lot of their personal information can be found on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
The availability of students’ personal information to the public makes them a high-value target.
One strategy employed by scammers is to create a fake, but lucrative, part-time job posting online, which prompts student job hunters to provide them with their resumés. Once they have an individual’s resumé, they will call and use the same information from the resumé to sound like a legitimate employer.
How to identify a tax scam
Students, as well as faculty and staff, should be vigilant when they receive any form of contact, either by telephone, post, text message or email, from anyone claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requesting immediate tax payment.
Ashley Clarke-Kelloway, communications manager, Atlantic regional office, CRA, says that, “If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency, saying that you owe money or that you’re getting a refund, go online and register for “My Account” at canada.ca/my-cra-account. You can then confirm your tax and benefit information, including if you owe money. You will be able to tell right away if you’re being scammed.”
CRA will never call and demand immediate payment. They will never use aggressive language or be threatening in tone.
CRA will also never ask anyone to pay owing tax in the form of gift cards, MoneyGram, bitcoins, etc.
CRA will never ask for personal information, such as a credit card number, bank account number or passport number. Recently, there have been reports of scammers leaving voicemails on students’ phones to call back to pay a tax bill.
Watch this video for tips on identifying someone posing as a CRA employee.
To identify legitimate communications from the CRA, be aware of these guidelines and know what to expect when the CRA contacts you.
What to do if you receive a call from scammer?
If you receive a suspicious call, hang up immediately and call your local police if you gave them money or your personal information.
You should also report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
You can also call the CRA helpline and verify any information that was conveyed to you by the scammer. Get more information from CRA’s website.
Working with victims of scams
Sometimes a friend of yours or someone you know is scammed. It is important to support them. Be patient, calm and understanding — they may be embarrassed and ashamed.
Do not blame them. Let them know they are not alone and that the scammers are experts in their criminal activity.
Tax clinics at Memorial
For students or newcomers looking for assistance for filing their income tax, Memorial offers free tax filing services — most students (Canadian and international) are eligible.
Tax clinics take place every Wednesday evening during the month of March from 6-8:30 pm in The Landing in the University Centre.
Megan Todd, director of the tax clinic, says that, “The clinic is a great way for low income individuals to feel at ease when filing their taxes. Our volunteers will answer questions, review or complete returns and provide any other information they may need.”
The Internationalization Office at Memorial also organizes tax workshops in the month of April, where volunteers provide guidance to students who wish to file their taxes themselves. Both the tax clinics and the tax workshops are free for most students.
“Having worked as the income tax coordinator for the Internationalization Office from 2014-18, I believe more awareness is required, especially for new students who enter Memorial,” said Valeri Pilgrim, a former tax clinic co-ordinator with the office.
Get prepared for tax season by visiting the Internationalization Office’s website.