Canadians can tell policymakers whether two recent arrests related to alleged telephone tax scams actually result in a drop off of similar scam calls.
In its release announcing the arrests of a Brampton, Ontario, couple, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reminded Canadians that if any caller asks for personal or banking information, then they should report the activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) through its website at www.antifraudcentre.ca, or by telephone at 1-888-495-8501. E-mails or texts making suspicious tax claims should not be acted upon, and referred to CAFC instead. March will be Fraud Prevention Month in Canada, and the RCMP estimated that between 2014 and 2019, the CRA scam – callers identify themselves as CRA or RCMP officials and threaten victims into paying non-existent taxes or penalties – has resulted in reported victim losses of $16.8 million. Including similar scams where callers claim to be bank investigators or computer tech support experts, total reported victim losses exceed $30 million.
On February 12, the RCMP arrested a Brampton, Ontario couple following a multi-year investigation into the India-based CRA scam during which investigators uncovered “money mules” and managers operating in Canada who collect the funds from these scams and assist with laundering these funds. The couple is charged with fraud, laundering the proceeds of crime and having property obtained by crime. A search of the couple’s home resulted in the seizure of $26,000 in cash, $114,000 in jewelry, a cash-counting machine and envelopes allegedly sent by scam victims containing money they believed they owed.
Insp. Jim Ogden told a news conference that the RCMP had “disrupted the necessary flow of money from Canada to India, which will have a big impact on the operation and the bottom line of the scammers.” Ogden indicated that other arrests “may be forthcoming”, but did not say whether there were other “money mules” operating in Canada.
The RCMP release also noted that the scam has led some Canadians to be wary or suspicious when legitimate CRA representatives contact them.
CBC’s Marketplace program, which helped spur the investigation with its programming for more than two years, included video of the arrests, along with earlier episode recaps in a recent broadcast.
Consumers Council of Canada president Don Mercer applauded the RCMP action, but added that damage has already been done to Canadian trust of commercial and government communications.
“Canadians want the government to protect them from the kinds of attacks they have faced, and expect governments to lead in requiring telecommunications service providers to harden their networks against abusers,” Mercer said. “Sadly, fending off fraudsters has been allowed to become a ritual of life in Canada.”