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Identity thieves target taxpayers

Tim Edwards
Northern News Services
Published Friday, April 23, 2010

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - The owner of a Northern artwork and jewellery store says knowledge she has gained as a business owner helped her identify and avoid a scam e-mail sent by someone claiming to be with the Canada Revenue Agency, which asked her to send them personal information.

NNSL photo/graphic

RCMP Const. Todd Scaplen holds a fraudulent e-mail sent out by scam artists this week claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency. The e-mail asks readers for personal information. - Tim Edwards/NNSL photo

The e-mail showed up in the Gallery of the Midnight Sun's inbox claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency said Lisa Seagrave, the store's owner. She said it told her she was eligible for a tax refund of $386 if she filled out a tax refund form linked to the e-mail.

Her tax affairs had already been settled for the year and Seagrave immediately spotted a likely scam to gather sensitive personal information.

"Because I own a business I have a lot of dealings with the Canada Revenue Agency. I know they would never do something like that, solicit anything like that through e-mail," said Seagrave.

She said the agency normally corresponds with her through "snail mail" and over the phone.

Seagrave said she did not follow the link the e-mail provided, as she is wary of viruses, but she gave a copy of the e-mail to the RCMP.

"I get a lot of e-mails from the people in the U.K. who are millionaires and they need access to accounts and all that - I don't bother forwarding them (to police) anymore," she said. "This is the first time I've seen (scam artists) take this angle, so I forwarded this one."

Caitlin Workman, a spokesperson for the Canada Revenue Agency, said this is a common e-mail scam. She said for some reason the scam artists always seem to use the same tax refund amount of $386.

Workman said the Canada Revenue Agency will never ask for personal information through an e-mail.

"We shouldn't be asking for personal info when we phone you, either," said Workman.

Const. Todd Scaplen with the Yellowknife RCMP detachment said the scam artists take advantage of the tax season.

"Just about every year there's people trying to take advantage of naive people through the Internet," said Scaplen.

He said the Canada Revenue Agency has warnings on their website that describe exactly this type of e-mail as a scam.

"They don't ask their clients to verify information by e-mail. They don't ask to verify personal details," said Scaplen.

He also warned against following the links listed in suspicious e-mails.

"If you don't trust it, don't click on it, because of the spyware and viruses that are out there on the Internet. Spyware collects information from your computer and feeds it back to the person who made the program, and they can monitor computers and all that," said Scaplen.

He said those who receive suspicious e-mails can contact the RCMP. As well, if the e-mail claims to come from the Canada Revenue Agency, people can contact the agency or visit its website where there is information on known scams.

There is also a website called PhoneBusters which is a national call centre that works to educate the public on scams of all sorts.

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