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Canadians tuning out real CRA agents because of phone scammers

Last Updated Nov 7, 2018 at 3:21 pm EDT

Indian policemen stand guard near India Gate in New Delhi, India, Jan. 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Tsering Topgyal

The Canada Revenue Agency says so many Canadians get calls from scammers pretending to be tax enforcers that real tax agents are having trouble reaching people.

The CRA and the RCMP say in a briefing in Ottawa Wednesday that they are trying to crack down on call centres with fraudsters who phone Canadians, say they owe back taxes, and threaten them if they don’t pay the money back. Some people are so used to receiving the fraudulent calls that they assume any communication from the tax-collection agency is bogus.

With help from police in India, the Mounties say they have dismantled three major operations there and arrested a dozen people here in Canada who are involved in the scheme. The RCMP has counted 4,000 victims who have lost a total of $15 million. Virtually none of the money has been recovered.

Tammy Branch, a director-general at the tax agency, says the CRA will never call or leave voicemails using aggressive language or threatening arrest.

Branch says agents will sometimes phone when they’re looking for more information but requests for payment are always in writing.

Staff-Sgt. Ken Derakhshan of the RCMP says falling for a scam can be financially and psychologically devastating. The RCMP say newcomers to Canada, especially people who don’t speak English or French, can be especially vulnerable.

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