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CRA tax scam fraudsters caught in India

Dale Carruthers

By Dale Carruthers, The London Free Press

Canada Revenue Agency headquarters. (FILE PHOTO, POSTMEDIA)

Canada Revenue Agency headquarters. (FILE PHOTO, POSTMEDIA)

A police crackdown in India is making London-area residents safer from fraudsters who prey on victims’ fear of the taxman.

Scammers posing as Canada Revenue Agency workers have been calling residents across Canada, including Southwestern Ontario, threatening fines, asset seizures and even jail time if they don’t send money for outstanding tax bills.

London police and regional OPP have warned citizens to be vigilant after numerous individuals were duped, often shelling out thousands of dollars.

Police in India raided “call centres” that served as operational bases for the alleged fraudsters, arresting 70 suspects and detaining hundreds of others for questioning, the RCMP said Friday.

Reports of the so-called CRA scam have plummeted across the country since the Indian crackdown in early October, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

The federal agency received just 94 complaints about the scam in the second week of October, down significantly from 450 logged during a week in June, said senior fraud specialist Daniel Williams.

“There’s no way Canadian police could be operating in India, so it absolutely depends on what resources the Indian police are able to put into it,” Williams said of combating the scam.

First reported in late-2013, more than 1,900 people have fallen victim to the scheme, forking over $5.7 million.

But Williams said that’s only a fraction of the true cost, because most victims are too embarrassed to report their losses.

Authorities had long believed the fraudsters were based in India. The heavily-accented callers use technology to show an Ottawa area code.

And it’s not just Canada being targeted. The sophisticated crooks customize their calls to other countries.

“We know that Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.K., Ireland are all reporting similar phone scams,” Williams said.

“We assume that the same call centres are calling globally.”

dcarruthers@postmedia.com

twitter.com/DaleatLFPress

CRA scam by the numbers

1,900: Number of victims

$5.7M: Reported losses

37,000: Calls to anti-fraud centre about scam

70: Suspects arrested in India