International students in N.B. feeling vulnerable to tax scam

A common scam is making the rounds again during tax time, and international students are feeling particularly vulnerable.

What might clearly be a scam to some New Brunswickers might not be as obvious to others

Last year, 12 New Brunswickers lost more than $22,000 through extortion-type scams, says the New Brunswick Financial and Consumer Services Commission. (CBC)

International student Maria Leiva said she was scared when she got a call from a man saying he was with the Canada Revenue Agency, and there was a problem with her account.

And that she needed to pay $1,000. Right away.

Not just that, but she could be arrested if she didn't obey.

"I was like, but I need to call my parents because at first glance I believed them," she said. "They said, 'if you hang up on us, we are going to arrest you.' So I was like, no, this couldn't be."

Leiva was able to figure out it was a scam, but others are not so fortunate.

12 New Brunswickers lost more than $22,000

Last year, 12 New Brunswickers lost more than $22,000 in this type of scam, said Marissa Sollows, acting director of education and communication with New Brunswick Financial and Consumer Services Commission.

She said the scam is most common at tax time. So far this year, she said, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received more than 5,300 complaints about the tax scam from all across Canada.

They try to scare you right up front and that's a really strong emotion.— Marissa Sollows

Leiva, a student at St. Thomas University, has heard of three other international students who have been targeted.

She wants the university to raise more awareness of the scam, perhaps through public forums or the school newspaper.

"International students, we are not well informed of all policies and and all of that, so we are fragile victims to these types of calls," she said.

Clues you may be getting scammed

Sollows said there are clues to indicate you might be getting scammed. She said if the CRA needs to contact you, they will generally do it by registered mail — not by email, text message or phone.

She said federal government employees will never threaten to arrest you, or tell you not to hang up, but it's a common tactic used by scammers.

"They try to scare you right up front and that's a really strong emotion," she said. "They're banking on the fact that we're going to want to fix the situation."

International students in Fredericton received calls from scammers posing as the Canada Revenue Agency. They demand money - and threaten the students with deportation or arrest. Student Maria Leiva said the calls are scary and the students don't always know how to tell they are the victim of fraud. 12:28

With files from Shift NB