I’ve been intending to share this information for a few months, but needed to get my client’s permission to share his story. His name and location will remain anonymous. But what he shared with me is very alarming!
After I share his story and other scams I will have a couple of tax reminders at the end.
Scams and con artists continue to be successful because we want to believe. The phrase “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is” is very good advice. In order for you to receive a lottery or an inheritance you NEVER need to send money first. And you NEVER need to provide your banking information.
I want to start my first (and most concerning) scam that happened to my client last fall. I’ll call him John. He called me up late last fall. He said “I think I just gave away all my money.” I asked him to come to my office and explain what happened.
He received a call from someone who advised he had won over a million dollars. Of course he and his wife were ecstatic, although a bit skeptical. The man then calls a few times and tells him everything he wants to hear and has all the answers. He is good, including reminding my client not to tell any of his family. And if anyone at the bank asks questions, it is none of their business. He is told that in order to claim the prize, he must send money via wire transfer to a foreign country. So he proceeded to withdraw all of his registered savings and send the money.
Of course there was no prize. Yes, he feels humiliated and didn’t even want to tell his children (I offered to talk with his children with him, but they are in another province; I offered to talk on the phone and he said he’d let me know). I tried to comfort him saying the con artists are very good and make everything sounds so good. He agreed wholeheartedly. I encouraged him to go to the police to report it. I’m not so sure he did, but he did agree I could share his story so others will learn from it.
To make matters worse, because he withdrew taxable registered savings, he paid income taxes, no longer qualifies for the Guaranteed Income Supplement for the next 12 months and no longer gets GST credit for the next year.
There have been others over the years that fortunately my clients have checked with me before they send money or send their banking information.
One was a letter a client received from a law firm from Vancouver to explain someone she had worked with many years ago had recently died and had left her as a beneficiary in her will, including a large “certificate of deposit”. When the lawyer asked for banking info, I became very suspicious. Lawyers never ask for bank accounts to pay out an inheritance. I said, the lawyer has her address already, and she could confirm her name and address, but give no further information (she insisted on responding to the letter). She never did get any inheritance. The other clue I had was the term “certificate of deposit”. That term is used in the USA, not Canada and yet, the lawyer and the “deceased friend” were in Vancouver.
Another client last year brought a letter he received from Australia, another inheritance; from a long lost uncle. Again they wanted banking info, but I explained they do not need it. Again he insisted on responding to the letter, so I reviewed the info he was providing and ensured that no confidential information was given. No inheritance received yet and no further letters.
And a more recent one was is quite disturbing. Just last month a client phoned me to say she got a call from the Canadian Revenue Services that she owed them money and they would be freezing her accounts unless she sent them money now. The caller was quite angry and very demanding.
Fortunately she had call display and wrote down the number and hung up and called me. I assured her she did not owe CRA any money (I had signed authorization from her to view her CRA account on line). Her account balance with CRA was zero (she had received her refund earlier). I confirmed that she did not owe them any money and that is not how they operate. She hung up and I did an internet search on the phone number and WOW, lots of info about this scam. And they had the name wrong. It’s not Canadian Revenue Services; it is called Canada Revenue Agency. I had another client experience a similar call.
First of all let me explain that if you do owe CRA money, they send out a series of statements of account to advise what you owe and then after a year or two, they will send a letter to demand payment. If they do have your phone number, yes, they may phone you, but they are not angry and threatening like my client’s caller. They can freeze your account and or garnish your income, but it’s normally after a very long period of time that you owe them money.
So if you get anything (letter or phone call) that does sound too good be true, call me or see me. I can review what you received to ensure if is legitimate or if it is a scam. And I can do an internet search to determine if others have been scammed. If you have been scammed and are out money, I encourage you to contact your local police. They may not be able to do much, but the more they have on record, the better.
If you have any other scams that you would like me to share with others, please let me know. I assure you will remain anonymous. Finally a few tax reminders for June.
First, if you are self employed like me, we have until June 15 to file our taxes without penalty if we owe. If we file after June 15, we are subject to a penalty of 5% of what is owed and 1% for each month it’s delayed. This penalty could be higher if it’s not the first year you are late. If you have not filed your taxes yet (self employed or not), if you owe, you have started owing interest beginning May 1 2015. So let’s get them done as soon as possible.
If you are expecting a refund, there is no penalty, but it’s your money, so let’s get it now. And there are many benefits that are recalculated in July based on your 2014 tax return, so if receive the Child Tax Benefit, Universal Child Care Benefit (now includes all children under 18), GST credit, Guaranteed Income Supplement, or subsidized housing, you definitely need to get your taxes done now!
And if you are a regular snow bird and spend about 120 days or more in the US in each of the past few years, there is a tax form you need to send to the USA by June 15. If you are unsure, call, email, or come and see me.
And a final note, I will be restarting my “death cafe” in July and the following months. If you would like to be on my contact list when we have specific dates, call or email me.
Anni Markmann is a tax professional working, living, and volunteering in our community. Contact Anni at 204-422-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org or 36 Dawson Road in Ste Anne.