Last week, an elderly resident in 31 Division claimed he received a call from his police station, suggesting he would be arrested if he failed to pay outstanding taxes.
“He came into the station and told me that our number, 416-808-3100, showed up on his phone and that the person on the other line claimed to be a police officer,” said Detective Constable Jennifer Rae. “At that point, we knew we had to do something.”
In the past few weeks, police in 31 and other Divisions have been receiving calls from citizens about the phone scams.
“These people are buying these spoof cards that allow them to pretend they are calling from any phone number they select and that phone number is showing up on the call display of the persons they call,” said Rae. “It seems that elderly people and recent immigrants are the ones that are most targeted in our Division.”
Financial Crimes Detective Al Spratt said the police impersonation scheme and Canada Revenue Agency scam have been on the police radar for some time.
“We have had many reports from citizens in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area region who have fallen for what we call the Canada Revenue Agency or CRA scam,” he said. “It’s unsolicited phone calls with the suspects purporting to be from the CRA or the police, and they threaten people that there is a warrant for their arrest because they owe back taxes or they lied on their tax returns. These suspects are asking victims to purchase pre-paid cards or to send money directly to bank accounts.”
Spratt said the suspects are using spoof apps and other techniques to disguise the numbers they are calling from.
“When you receive an unsolicited phone call and you are not expecting it, take the person’s information, ask for their phone number and tell them you may or may not call them back and then take steps to verify whether the information is true or not,” said Spratt, on how to handle an unsolicited call. “If they claim they are with the CRA or the police, go to their websites and call the phone numbers listed to verify the call.”
Spratt said that people should also reach out to friends and family members to ask if a phone call is suspicious.
“When you receive this call, talk to people you trust about it because often they have heard about it and know it’s a scam and they will prevent you from becoming a victim.”
If anyone does receive this type of fraudulent phone call, they are encouraged to take the following steps to protect themselves from fraud:
- Do not comply with the caller and contact the appropriate agency office to verify the information
- Contact the agency directly, with the number listed in the phone book
- Do not call the number provided by the caller
- Write down the number which appears on the call display or the number the caller provides
- Do not provide personal information over the telephone
- Restitution is awarded through the courts; police do not request or demand money
- Be cautious of who you are dealing with on the phone
- Do not provide PINs for bank cards to people you do not know
- Never wire-transfer money to someone unless you know them
For more information on fraud prevention, visit the Financial Crimes webpage