Wednesday, 8 March 2017

CREEPS Part XIV                                                         

It is a most unfortunate fact of life that in every society, there are creeps who are bugs that slither into our communities. This article is about some of those slithering bugs. I was able to get much of my information from a very well written article written by Keven Newman and published in the Toronto Star,

In recent years, Canadians have received a slew of phony emails claiming to be from the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) about a tax refund awaiting them if they click a link to update their personal information. Most people just ignore them. They know a scam when they hear it coming from their phone.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Canada`s federal police) has estimated that as many as 50,000 Canadians so far have been victimized by callers claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency.  Millions of dollars  scammed from these bug`s victims have been sent directly to India. I should point out that I receive many calls from these bugs which are part of other scams who sound just like they are from India.  This makes me very suspicious when an East Indian phones me. Of course, not all persons who are from India are scammers.                                             

There is one way you know for sure that these bugs are attempting to steal your money. The Canada Revenue Agency can be tough, but it won't ever call you to threaten you with court fines or arrest you for tax evasion. They will instead send you a letter. If you get a phone call from one of these bugs, hang up before they trick you into separating you from your money.

Martin Zelikovitz (a real estate agent in Toronto) received a call from such a scammer claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency. That bug told him that his tax return had been reviewed and that he owed money to the Canada Revenue Agency. Now Marvin is no fool. He recognized the scam right away.

He said when he was interviewed by the Toronto Star, “I calmly told this person that if the CRA wanted to tell me something, it would contact me by letter. He went nuts and started yelling and screaming at me.”

I have received hundreds of calls from scammers and none of them have screamed at me. Within seconds, they realize that I am not going to fall for their scams so they generally hang up on my ear without another word from them. The bug that screamed at Marvin was probably an immature twit.

My suspicious come to me immediately when I see on my phone screen that the number is an unknown number. There are generally only four kinds of people who have unlisted phone numbers. They are criminals, deadbeats, persons being protected by the police and couples who are separated. 

The tax scam preyed on victims all over North America Threatening calls coming from these bugs claiming to be tax collectors are hitting Canada and the United States with a vengeance after sweeping through Australia and Britain.

Lucy (her last name is omitted in this article) was taken in by a tax scam by one of those Indian bugs because she was worried that her job in Toronto’s financial community would be jeopardized if her employer discovered  how quickly she maxed out her three credit cards in order to send her money to the bug in India. It took her only four hours, and six trips to two different drugstores, to plunge her $25,000 into the red—a debt she is still struggling to pay off.

She paid off what she believed at the time was a legitimate debt she owed to the CRA.  She thought that the agents of the CRA would go to her work and arrest her in front of her fellow employers and they would know that she owed money to the tax man. She told the Star, “In my life, I never do anything wrong. That’s why I’m so afraid.”

What created fear and panic in Lucy’s mind was a voice-mail message that has terrified tens of thousands of Canadians since 2013. Someone claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency typically says a fraudulent mistake has been discovered in back taxes, and the person needs to contact the tax department to rectify it immediately.

In recordings obtained by CTV’s W5, the voice mails went this way: “The issue at hand is extremely time-sensitive and very urgent. We have received legal notice against your name regarding tax fraud. The police department will approach you at your place with an arrest warrant.”

When Lucy received that message, she immediately called the number provided and spoke to a young man who identified himself as “Jason” at CRA and demanded she pay the alleged tax debt. He kept the pressure on, instructing Lucy to buy an ever-increasing number and value of iTunes cards over the next four hours, and provide him with the serial numbers on the back of them. At one point the voice on the other end of the phone threatened to reveal to police that Lucy was a terrorist if she didn’t comply.

“I didn’t think it was a scam,” Lucy said. “I thought that Revenue Canada is Revenue Canada.”

Quite frankly, I am surprised that anyone such as Lucy, who works in the business of finance, could be fooled into believing that nonsense being thrown at her over the phone. Didn’t it dawn on her that the CRA would never threaten her by saying that they would tell the police that she was a terrorist? That was the sign that something was amiss; a sign that she was about to be scammed by a scammer.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in North Bay receives hundreds of complaints every week about calls like the one that targeted Lucy. According to Jeff Thompson, operational supervisor at the centre, who has heard many of them, the person making the call was clearly extorting the victims.

“There was a lot of fear in the victims,” Thompson said. “It was fear and panic they were trying to create. ‘You owe money, you’re going to be arrested, deported, fined, charged.’ They’re going to keep the victims on the phone. They’re going to direct them to the nearest store, the nearest money service business.”

Lucy didn’t have time to question the oddity of being told she needed to pay a tax debt by purchasing cards meant to download music and movies. She, like many older victims, didn’t know what iTunes cards were used for. She stopped agreeing to the demands from “Jason” only after she had maxed out her three credit cards and emptied her savings. She had no more money to hand over. She finally called her daughter and told her what had been happening that afternoon, and it was then she realized she had been had.

This particular scam is unusual because most scammers are telemarketers  who are trying to sell us something we don’t really want. This tax scam is more like the one in which the scammer claims he is calling on behalf of a relative who is in a foreign jail and that the relative needs money to hire a lawyer.

The difficulty we have in trying to squash these bugs is it is almost impossible to track them down.       

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