Editorial: Death and taxes and scams

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

With all due respect to the late, great Benjamin Franklin — who probably wasn’t the first person to realize the futility of trying to dodge the taxman, just the first to write it down — we’d like to add one more item to his short list of life’s certainties: the scam. At this time of year, the Canada Revenue Agency tax scam, in particular, is making its return like clockwork.

This one usually involves a telephone call wherein the target is threatened by someone claiming to be from the CRA, who uses forceful and aggressive language to scare their would-be victim into paying a fictitious debt.

The caller requests immediate payment by credit card or convinces the victims to purchase a prepaid credit card and to call back immediately with the information. The taxpayer is often threatened with court charges, jail or deportation.

The thing is, none of it is true.

If and when the CRA contacts you, they will never:

• ask for personal information by email or text message;

•  request payment by prepaid credit card;

• share your tax information with another person or organization, unless you have agreed that it can be shared;

• leave personal information on an answering machine;

• threaten with police arrest or use nasty language.

It’s a sad truth that as most of us work to earn a living and pay our taxes, there are many others who are more than happy to ride along on our coattails, while trying to bilk us out of a little extra along the way.

The irony, of course, is the level of imagination and the amount of work that goes into running a proper scam — all of which is done, presumably, to avoid actually working for a living.

All that practise can make them pretty convincing, though. And, as with most things in life, nobody would bother doing it if it wasn’t working.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to learn whether you’ve been contacted by a scam artist claiming to be from CRA or by the real deal. Just call 1-800-959-8281.  Scams can be reported at

www.antifraudcentre.ca. If you believe you may be the victim of fraud or have given personal or financial information by mistake, contact the RCMP. For more information, go to

www.cra.gc.ca/fraudprevention.

As for how to avoid those other two things — unfortunately, we’re all out of advice.