In response to a common phone scam, police are reminding Albertans that the Canada Revenue Agency will never call you to demand payment for overdue taxes in gift cards, prepaid credit cards or bitcoin.

RCMP in Red Deer have received more than 30 reports of the tax scam in the past few days, including from several victims who lost between $1,500 and $4,700 each.

Police said the scam involves "aggressive callers" pretending to be tax collectors who threaten victims with arrest or deportation if they don't pay up.

"Several recent files saw the scammers call back after successfully victimizing Red Deerians once, telling them they owed even more money," RCMP said in a release.

"One Red Deer complainant reported that their phone display showed the Red Deer RCMP complaint line number, and that the scammer claimed to have a warrant from the Alberta RCMP for their arrest."

The scammers have been known to demand payment in forms other than cash that can be transferred over the phone or the internet.

Recently, this has even included digital gift cards for Steam, an online gaming platform.

There are many variations on the exact nature of the scam but police said these facts remain the same:

  • Even if you do owe money to the Canada Revenue Agency, they do not accept payment in gift cards or bitcoin.
  • Any legitimate caller will encourage you to call back independently to verify their claim. Do not call back to a number the caller gives you. Look up the CRA or the appropriate agency and call them yourself.
  • If police call you on police business, they will give you verifiable facts including a file number and their name and rank.
  • If you get a threatening phone call claiming to represent police and asking for money, ask for those verifiable facts, hang up and call your local police detachment to check.
  • Remember that scammers frequently use "number spoofing" to make it look like their call is coming from a legitimate organization on your call display.
  • If you receive a call from a tax scammer, you do not need to report it to police unless you have fallen victim to their scam. Just hang up the phone.
  • These scammers are usually located outside of Canada, making it impossible for RCMP to locate them.

"Red Deer RCMP urge people to ask questions, be skeptical of phone calls from anyone who is demanding money, and to educate themselves about these very common scams," Cpl. Karyn Kay said.

"Check your facts and do your research, and be alert to red flags such as anyone demanding payment through gift cards or pre-paid credit cards. Then, when you get a call from a scammer, hang up and ignore them."

More information is available at www.antifraudcentre.ca.