Fraud Alert – Do not disclose your information over phone calls

November 3, 2012

A client of mine had this recent experience. She buys and sells a number of homes, and one day she received a phone call from a 1-855 number. The caller claimed to be an investigation agent of the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), and she requests a number of documents for a GST/HST-related investigation.

Naturally, my client was scared. She complied with the request, and faxed a bunch of documents to a number provided by the “investigator”, including her driver’s licence, bank statements, credit card statements, utility bills and some deeds.

Luckily, the client somehow thought she needed a lawyer to deal with this situation and represent her before the CRA. After the initial meeting, my mind boggled. Could CRA request such documents without even sending out a letter to a taxpayer? The client believed the CRA was using some “scaring tactics” to investigate, which I believed was not right.

Immediately after I was retained, I called the 1-855 number, which sounded even more suspicious. The truth is usually difficult to find out in most litigation cases I have, but easy in this case. A simple phone call to CRA confirmed that they did not have such a number (although the CRA agent cautioned that she was not absolutely sure, she had my trust). Following was a fraud report to the RCMP, to the local police office, and then alerting all the organizations and companies related to the documents or information disclosed by my client. Of course, further measures are also taken to protect my client’s assets.

With all these done the risk of exposing my client to losses should be minimum. But no one can say for sure. With the documents at hand the fraudster may do a lot of things. Further, the original fraudster may sell the information to other fraudsters, who make think of new ways of making gains at the expense of the defrauded.

The lesson learned is clear: never disclose your documents or personal information over a phone call received. You may always ask the caller to put the request in writing. If you have any doubt, talk to your lawyer or other competent professionals who can help you.

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