With tax scams on the rise, CRA urges Canadians to listen to their voice of reason

Who: The Government of Canada (Canada Revenue Agency) and St. John’s agency Target.

What: “Be scam smart,” a new integrated campaign aimed at curbing the growing number of cases of people being scammed by fraudsters posing as representatives from the Canada Revenue Agency.

When & Where: The integrated campaign launched late last month and is running into 2021. It includes two 15-second TV spots, plus a series of 15- and 30-second videos and online ads.

Why: Because tax scams are on the rise, with more than 21,658 Canadians duped out of $89.1 million so far this year (last year saw 19,930 people defrauded of more than $104 million). There has also been a been a spate of scams related to COVID-19 and the government’s CERB program.

Fraudsters pretend to be Canada Revenue Agency representatives, calling, texting or emailing people claiming that they owe unpaid taxes or that they have received a refund, in order to obtain personal and financial information. Some scams urge Canadians to pay outstanding tax bills using gift cards or bitcoin.

The campaign’s goal is to help people better understand the scams and the government’s collection methods. According to Target’s director of account management, Catherine Kelly, research found that people increasingly don’t know are what to trust anymore and that Canadians are generally trustful when told they are being contacted by the government. “[T]herein lies the need to help people be ‘scam smart,'” she said.

How: The ads show would-be scam victims being notified of a tax return by text or being told they can pay outstanding amounts using gift cards, before their voice of reason—which Target creative director Jason Hill describes as their “rational inside voice”—informs them that what they’re being told makes no sense. All of the ads drive to a dedicated web site where they can find additional information.

And we quote: “Scammers are relentlessly creative in coming up with new scams, and relentlessly persistent in targeting vulnerable Canadians who trust the Government of Canada.” — Jane Hall, account director, Target

Chris Powell