Canmore man warns of CRA scam
Thursday, Feb 16, 2017 06:00 am
While telephone and email scams related to the Canada Revenue Agency have been making the rounds for some time, a Canmore man was targeted, Monday (Feb. 13).
B. Hiebert was having lunch at the Georgetown Inn when he received a cellphone call from alleged CRA agents. Thus began more than four hours of threats, harassment, demands for money, deadlines and angst.
Hiebert said he wasn’t aware of CRA scams prior to the call, and said the level of detail the scammers had was what he found scary.
“They had everything. They knew my social insurance number, my mom’s maiden name, information from my past, from when I was sick, even what my assets were. They said I owed $98,000 for tax evasion between 2010 and 2015 and that if I didn’t send them a retainer, they’d send the RCMP and a crown prosecutor after me.”
Overall, two scammers going by the names Mark Myers and David Williams kept Hiebert on the phone from 12:30 to 4:50 p.m. on Monday. The scammers continued to threaten with police and court action, custody and arrest.
During the phone conversations, Hiebert was scribbling notes on scraps of paper as the scammers continued with threats and oddly detailed information.
Things became stranger still when the scammers asked if there was a public place they could meet. Hiebert said he was near Canmore Hospital and could meet there.
Driving his car to the hospital, Hiebert said he stopped and one of the scammers told him to turn around and look. Doing so, he noticed an RCMP cruiser behind him. He was again threatened to pay the retainer.
Feeling further threatened after the police car appeared, and due to the level of detail the scammers had relayed, in the end, Hiebert paid $7,400 for the supposed retainer.
The police car left, and Hiebert wondered if a fake police call had been made. But, still on the phone, he finally gave the scammers credit card numbers for, again, odd amounts such as $2,087.46 and $2,887.46. Odd as well is that Hiebert was directed to purchase $1,700 in iTunes cards which he was to send later (he still has them).
“They kept me on the phone, I was speeding around town, running, trying to meet time deadlines. It was disturbing,” said Hiebert. “And they said don’t contact anyone; and when a cop car showed up, I believed everything.
“They were so smart; beyond the capability of regular people.”
After paying the scammers with credit cards and purchasing the iTunes cards, the ordeal ended at 4:50 p.m. Hiebert, though, after thinking about the situation for a while, called RCMP Cst. Goryachev and related what happened to him.
He even tried later calling New York numbers the scammers had given him, but was immediately hung up on. Since then, with information from police, Hiebert has changed his bank accounts, cancelled credit cards, and is making changes to his insurance policies.
Hiebert said fortunately his credit card payments will be covered by his bank, and he still has the iTunes cards, so he’s not actually out any money – but he’s shaken and angry and convinced that somehow, he was a victim of identity theft before the scammers called him.
As far as he can remember, he said, the only time recently he gave out any personal information was in applying for a Square card reader.
“I have no idea where all this came from,” said Hiebert. “I even asked the RCMP if this could be a dirty cop or dirty agent; I was really angry. I’m not sure about anything at this point.”
CRA scams in some form, said RCMP Sgt. Ryan Currie, Tuesday (Feb. 14), have been ongoing.
“They’re good and they’ve been going for a while,” he said. “We’ve had a few of them take place in the Bow Valley over the last year.”
Currie said RCMP will continue to investigate, adding no false calls to the police were made to the hospital area on Monday, “so that must be a coincidence.”
Currie said in some cases people swindled are too embarrassed to call police afterward, “but if something doesn’t sound legitimate, people should call us right away. The Canada Revenue Agency won’t phone you, they’ll send information in the mail, or through registered mail.
“They won’t send the RCMP after you and we don’t investigate for them. They have their own investigators. And people should give out personal information.”