Your social insurance number, date and place of birth, mother’s maiden name, and credit-card numbers are yours to keep confidential – and unless you know the person seeking this data or can confirm their identity, nobody has the right to this information, especially on the phone or via the internet.
This should be a rule-of-thumb for all, especially seniors who increasingly are being targeted by scam artists who want to use personal data to defraud your accounts or impersonate you.
How did the scammers know I was working on this story? That’s the question I had to ask, with a smile, when last month I received an email, ostensibly from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), headlined, “Tax Refund is Ready.”
I knew this was a scam because on the same day I received a letter – the amounts I was expected to pay by March 15 and June 15 as income tax installments for fiscal 2019.
To “claim” this so-called refund of $721.17, the email asked for my social insurance number, date of birth, address, phone number, mother’s maiden name, and more – an obvious scam.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, The Canada Revenue Agency “will never give or ask for personal or financial information by email and ask you to click on a link.”
But there was more that led us to realize how active scam artists are in Canada.
Recently, we got a call at home requesting “clarification” of our credit card number and date of birth, even though the caller could not say for sure what credit card we were holding, a sure sign of a cold-call scam artist.
And for years, we have been getting calls from men with an Indian accent about our computers being allegedly infected, and asking for confidential information so they can “help” clean it up.
Many of us will have received these calls and know the only goal is to “take us to the cleaners” by invading our privacy and stealing confidential data and racking up huge charges.
We must guard our personal information jealously, but there can be errors.
A Facebook friend recently alerted her network to what looked like a perfect scam – a letter sent under the Bank of Montreal letterhead requesting missing and “required tax information.” It had her name and address, included a Canada Revenue Agency form letter, and asked for a correct social insurance number and date of birth. It came with a self-addressed and stamped envelope.
When she called her branch she was told it was indeed a scam. Yet we subsequently learned it wasn’t. In a letter made public on October 15 by the Bank of Montreal, its Investigations and Security Services Department said it had advised the Barrie, Ont. Police Service that “recent letters requesting updated tax related information sent to some customers were in fact legitimate.”
“There was a miscommunication at the Branch level and efforts are underway to correct this,” the bank reported.
It then passed on this advice from Barrie police, advising the public to “Always be cautious when sharing personal information” and suggesting direct contact with the requester if you are suspicious or concerned in any way. Anyone who suspects they are victimized by scam attempts should contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.
Here is what the centre says on its website, antifraudcentre.ca/ concerning the Canada Revenue Agency and requests for information on the phone:
The CRA may verify your identity by asking for such personal information as your name, date of birth, address and CRA account, or social insurance number. It may ask for details about your account, if it’s a business inquiry, or call you to begin an audit.
The CRA will NEVER ask for your passport number, health care data, or driver’s permit. It will never demand immediate payment by Interac, e-transfer, bitcoin, prepared cards, or retailers’ gift cards.
The CRA will never use aggressive language or threaten you, or leave threatening voicemails or discuss personal or financial information.
To access the full list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to protecting yourself against mail and phone fraud, click on antifraudcentre.ca