Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services


Scamming by phone

CRA Scams | Police Scams | Financial Scams
Unknown Callers | Fake Caller ID | Just Hang Up
Scammer Tricks

Person dealing with an annoying phone call.

Identity theft information is contained on these pages:

  1. Identity Theft: obtaining information by deceit
  2. Vishing: scamming by phone
  3. Phishing: scamming by email
  4. Computer Support Scams

Report Identity Theft

If you have been a victim of identity theft (or suspect you have), contact the police to report identity theft.

Don't let embarrassment keep you from talking to the authorities. If you were the only victim, identity theft would NOT be a growing problem.

The sooner you report the potential identity theft, the sooner you can begin to resolve the issue.

What is Vishing?

Vishing (phone scams) is a form of phishing where only the voice is used to deceive.

Indeed, vishing may be considered a type of phishing, whereas phishing itself is a catchall term for a range of attacks that aim at stealing sensitive information.


While vishing attacks center solely on the use of voice to scam others, phishing scams can use a variety of methods, ranging from voice and text messages to fake emails and websites.

These calls can be intimidating and frightening.

They use volume, aggression and sophistication to achieve their goal of taking people away from their money. Their entire approach is to cause harm, cause fear and get people not thinking, get them reacting and not in control.
Times Colonist

Anyone asking for payment via untraceable methods like Bitcoin or gift cards is scamming you.

AI Voice Clone Scams

AI can clone human voices so realistically that even a close relative has no ability to discern the difference, especially if told that their family member is in jail or kidnapped. The only workable solution is to create a verbal password that can confirm that you're actually speaking with a family member. Learn more…

The Warning Signs

An unexpected call with any of these warning signs can indicate that you're dealing with a scammer:

How it Works

It starts with a phone call where someone claims to represent a well-known government authority such as the CRA, your local police or RCMP or a financial institution like your bank or credit card company.

Among the variations:

You are being scammed. Just hang up.

The Direct Call

Most such calls are made directly to your phone number. These are attempts to con you into providing:

You can't trust call display because it is commonly faked by unscrupulous callers.

The Fake “Support” Number

The other method is to place a fake error message onto your computer with a phone number listed for you to “call for help.”

This is a computer support scam, a specialized vishing scheme aimed at gaining control of your computer. More…

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CRA Scams

This is a particularly scary call.

You get a call from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) telling you that you owe a great deal of tax and that you're about to arrested unless you immediately provide funds.

You are being scammed. Just hang up.

Scammers have defrauded Canadians out of tens of millions of dollars over the past decade pretending to be collecting back taxes with the Canada Revenue Agency.
CTV News

The payment is usually in some form of untraceable currency (e.g., BitCoin or gift cards).

They may also ask for financial information: confirming your bank account, SIN, etc.

Remember, they called you. It is the caller that must verify their identity.

The Canada Revenue Agency will never call and use nasty language or threaten a customer. They will also never ask for credit card information, personal information by email or text, or request your social insurance number or ask for bank account information.
CTV News

Just Hang Up

Don't panic. Just hang up.

You are being scammed.

If there was a warrant for your arrest, police officers would already be at your door.

Tell the caller you will call back, then hang up.

It would be a good idea report the suspicious call to your local police and the CRA.

Use Only Official Contact Information

Never use any call-back number provided by the caller.

This is most likely a scam since CRA doesn't threaten arrest or accept untraceable payments.

To give yourself peace of mind, you can either check your online CRA account or call the CRA using accurate information provided with your tax documentation (i.e., your Notice of Assessment).

You'll be able to verify if you owe money to the CRA and how to proceed.

You'll probably discover that the call was a scam.

Not sure if the person calling is really from the CRA?

CRA Resources

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Police Scams

These include calls that appear to come from either the RCMP or your local police.

Most will indicate that you're about to be arrested unless you can provide some sort of immediate payment.

Of course, the payment will have to be something untraceable like gift cards (they get you to purchase the cards then provide the redemption codes on the back).

Threats of Arrest Unlikely

The threat of arrest is disturbing, but think about it for a moment.

If you were about to be arrested, the police would be at your door, not calling to warn you.

Calls from “Local Police”

While this scam originally almost always appeared to involve the RCMP, the newest variation appears to be calls from your local police threatening arrest.

[P]olice are warning of a new twist on the old scam.


The scammers are pretending to be officers with local police forces, investigators said.


The thieves are also using caller ID spoofing so it looks like the call is coming from a police phone number.
CTV News

The caller uses fake caller ID to seem to be calling from an official number.

The best solution is to just hang up.

You might want to look up the correct number for the police on your city's website or some other officials source (phone books rarely exist these days) and report the attempted crime.

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Financial Scams

The CRA is not the only source of financial schemes.

These scams ask you to help the local police or someone else in authority, but inevitably involve you using your own financial resources.

The point of the scam is to obtain your money while you are deceived into believing that you are doing a good deed.

The Bank Scam

In the bank examiner fraud, you are requested to take out large amounts of cash. Your bank will warn you, but the beauty of this scam is that the “bank examiner” has already stated that you can't trust the bank employees.

No legitimate caller will ever ask you to withdraw cash, yet many Canadians have been scammed using this premise.

In the end, that cash is provided to the scammer and the “hero” is left poorer.

The “Grandparent Scam”

This scam involves conning the person (usually elderly parents or grandparents) into believing that the caller is a relative that has an emergency requiring a significant amount of cash (generally thousands of dollars). The scam uses various themes such as the urgent need for bail money.

The caller will use your emotions, claiming that unless you help them they'll be hurt or worse so that you won't have time to think it through, especially about how the money is to be transferred.

Just a few weeks after the "grandparent scam" cost two Saanich residents a total of more than $27,000, the persistent fraud has emerged in Nanaimo, with about 20 reports to police in the span of just a few hours.


The scam features callers claiming to be a grandchild or other relative in trouble and in need of money for bail or some other emergency expense.


It can involve fraudsters who have combed social media for personal information about a potential victim, such as the term their grandchildren use for them.


In at least one of the Nanaimo cases, a fraudster found online audio of a potential victim's niece and used artificial intelligence to mimic it.
Times Colonist

Notice how the scammer scoured social media for the personal information used to convince at least one of the victims, learning about how the grandchild addressed them and how AI was used to mimic a niece's voice.

In all these cases, the key is to remain calm and think things through. Hang up and call a number obtained from a reliable source such as an official police website.

Don't let the caller provide a phone number or direct you to a website (websites can be faked). You should be able to obtain an arresting officer, case number or similar identification prior to hanging up.

In most cases you'll find the police know nothing about the incident. File a formal complaint, providing the details.

Credit Card Scams

If you have concerns about your credit card(s), call the number on the back of the card or visit your bank in person.

Credit cards are involved in most of these scams in one way or another.

Remember, these are seldom legitimate calls. Thieves are trying to con you into giving up your credit card details.

Suspicious Charges

The callers may try to scare you into believing your card has been compromised.

An automated call says there are suspicious charges on your card. Usually fairly large purchases are mentioned.

If the caller is unable to provide more than the last four digits of your card, they could have obtained that information from a discarded cash register slip.

New Lower Rates

Calls may try to entice you with exceptionally low rates.

These calls usually mention “VISA and MasterCard” rather than the specific card or the financial institutions they are calling from.

They Ask You to Verify Your Identity

Even though they called you, you'll be asked to provide your credit card details, plus your name, address, etc. “to prove who you are.”

They'll use that information to

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Unknown Callers

Be aware of the differences between a call initiated by you using a reliably-sourced phone number and one that you receive from an unknown caller.

If an unknown caller asks you to provide your account numbers or other key information to “prove your identity” REFUSE that request and hang up if they insist.

You have no way of knowing who is calling you (even if you have call display). It is up to the caller to prove their identity since they initiated the call.

Don't Confirm or Volunteer Information

NEVER either confirm or volunteer any information to an unknown caller (especially when asked to prove who you are).

Remember, if you didn't initiate the call using a reliable source you cannot be certain of who you're speaking with.

Employ “Zero Trust” with Unknown Callers

One of your best tools to avoid being scammed is zero trust.

Do NOT trust any information provided by an unknown caller. That includes any phone number, email address or Web address.

There is no way for you to be certain of the identity of an unknown caller and therefore anything they say.

Because you did not initiate the call it is up to the caller to prove they are legitimate (something they cannot do). Learn how to protect your identity.

Never Provide Your SIN

Any such request should make you suspicious. Even the CRA will not ask for your full SIN.

From a financial perspective your tax information as well as your entire credit profile including your history and credit score is connected to your SIN.
Toronto City News
Never give any personal information, such as a Social Security number, to a caller unless you're positive he or she is a legitimate representative of a company with which you regularly do business.


If there's any question, ask for the caller's full name, title and department and tell him or her you'll call back.


Use the business's phone number as posted on its website or, better still, on any snail-mailed statement or correspondence you've received from the company.
Check Point blog

Your Social Insurance Number is often used as a key to perpetrating future fraud in your name.

Recovery of a lost SIN is difficult and doesn't prevent the older number from being used fraudulently.

Your Social Insurance Number is your account number when dealing with the government.

Almost no one else should require your SIN.

Calls from Canada Post?

Fraudulent phone calls are circulating from “ Canada Post” asking for personal information including your Social Insurance Number to obtain your delivery of a wrongly-addressed package.

This is a scam. Improperly addressed mail is returned to the sender.

Canada Post doesn't have your phone number and cannot confirm your identity via a Social Insurance Number.

The Post Office scam can also be a text message asking you to open a link in your web browser. Don't. Just delete the text, reporting it if your app provide that option.

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Caller ID Can be Faked

Never trust any phone number or website provided by the caller.

Fake websites and faked caller ID are used to trick you into believing the caller is who they claim to be.

Most people don't know how easy it is for scammers to fake the caller ID phone number displayed when you receive a call.


Thanks to the phony caller IDs, the "spoofers" are able to convince victims that they're receiving a call from a bank or credit card company -- and use this to acquire sensitive personal and financial information, or even money, from their victims.

Would you reveal your real phone number if you were a scammer?

Unless you initiate the call AND have obtained the number from a legitimate source, you have no certainty who you're dealing with.

The caller ID number showing is no guarantee that the caller is who they say they are.

Remember, they called you!

Fake Phone Numbers

Here are three tips that can help you avoid being scammed:
  1. Don't assume that the information displayed on your phone, regarding who the caller is, is accurate -- now you know it can easily be spoofed.
  2. Never give out personal or financial information over the phone unless you know EXACTLY whom you're dealing with.
  3. If you have doubts about who's on the phone, call back the main number at your bank or credit card company rather than talking to the person who calls you.

Google Cannot be Trusted

Use only trusted sources to obtain the telephone number or website address to contact any site requiring personal information or a password.

Google cannot be a trusted source, especially if you click on any of the “sponsored” links (known for listing malicious sites).

Look for a Statement or Invoice

Instead, look up the number or website in a statement or invoice you've received from the company or organization when doing business with them in the past.

An Example Caller ID Scam

In an Ontario scam, the person provided her Social Insurance Number to a fraudster that appeared to be calling from a courthouse.

At the start of the call, there was a generic robotic voice supposedly from the Service Ontario Justice Department that told me my SIN has been flagged for two fraudulent charges and ignoring this could lead to legal ramifications and serious jail time.
Toronto City News

The caller told the victim to Google the number as “proof of his legitimacy” but had used fake caller ID as part of the scam.

What About Unknown Numbers

There are resources that let you check out a phone number.

These services depend upon reports from people like you that may have fallen victim to the scam or are simply concerned that it may be a scam.

Faked Phone Numbers

In many cases the scammer will fake a local or domestic number until it becomes too hot to use, then they'll switch to another.

Using Internet-based phone calling, it is easy to fake any number, including

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Just Hang Up

Don't respond to suspicious callers. Just hang up.

You don't need to fear these calls or obey the instructions given by the caller.

One lady was scammed for thousands of dollars because “the caller told me I couldn't hang up.”

Callers Need to Prove Their Identity

Be wary of any calls you didn't initiate.

If YOU contact your bank or credit card company, they need information to identify you. This is normal.

Just be sure you obtain that contact number from a trusted source such as a recent invoice or statement.

The Caller Has No Authority

However, if you DIDN'T initiate the call the caller has no right to expect you to provide such information.

The party placing the call is always the one that has to prove their legitimacy.

You cannot be certain who is on the line unless you placed the call and didn't misdial.

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Scammer Tricks

These are known scam techniques. Don't respond. Just hang up.

Remember, they called you! so it's their identity that is unconfirmed.

Prize Scams

These calls begin by telling you that you've won a lottery or some other significant prize.

Here's the catch: you need to pay shipping and taxes or other fees before the prize is delivered.

“Missed Calls” Scams

Be wary when calling back a missed number, particularly if it only rang once.

If you are asked to call unknown number, google the area code to check if it's local. Also, ask your cell phone and land line companies to put a block on international calls. This way you will hear an error message when you try to call an international number.

Calls to “regular” numbers in certain (mostly Caribbean) countries can be treated like 900 “pay-per-minute” numbers.

284 (British Virgin Islands), 242 (Bahamas), 246 (Barbados), 268 (Antigua/Barbuda), 345 (Cayman Islands), 664 (Montserrat), 670 (U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), 758 (St. Lucia), 787 (Puerto Rico), 767 (Dominica), 809 (Dominican Republic), 869 (St. Kitts & Nevis), 868 (Trinidad & Tobago), and 876 (Jamaica) are all area codes in the Caribbean.

“Can You Hear Me?”

Your response to “Can you hear me?” or similar questions that elicit a positive response can be recorded and used as “proof” you ordered a product or service.

I answered the phone. They said: “Hi my name is Matt on a recorded line and I'm with Health Source. Can you hear me okay?” I said: “Yes” They then hung up.
— as reported to

Spot a business or offer that sounds like a scam?

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Updated: March 31, 2024