British Columbia

Metro Vancouver police warn of CRA scams after residents lose thousands

Police forces in Metro Vancouver are warning residents about Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scams after people in different cities lost thousands — one in an incident involving fake police officers.

Surrey resident lost $18K, police say

Vancouver police are warning the public after a 58-year-old woman claims she lost $6,000 in a CRA scam. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

UPDATE: Since this story was published, Vancouver police say they've learned the 58-year-old victim exaggerated her story. While she did lose $6,000, investigators say she did not deal with anyone in person and was not "arrested" by men posing as police officers.

Police forces in Metro Vancouver are warning residents about Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scams after people in different cities lost thousands of dollars — one in an incident involving fake police officers.

In Vancouver, a 58-year-old woman says she lost $6,000 after someone phoned her claiming to be from the CRA on Wednesday. Police say fraudsters told her there was a warrant out for her arrest related to money owed on her taxes.

After that, another person claiming to be an RCMP officer took over the phone and convinced the woman to reveal her location. Two more scammers, wearing what appeared to be Mountie uniforms, showed up and handcuffed the woman. 

Police said she was then driven to a bank near Cambie Street and King Edward Avenue, where she withdrew $6,000 at the counter.

A statement said she was then driven to a Bitcoin machine in Surrey and ordered to deposit the money. Once she did, the suspects allegedly abandoned the victim.

In both alleged scams, police say victims were ordered to withdraw money and pay scammers in Bitcoin.

Police said the first suspect is described as a white male in his 30s who's 5 feet 11 inches tall with an average build, light brown hair and a full, trimmed beard.

The second is described as a white male between 25 and 27 years old. Police said he's clean shaven with short, brown hair.

Both suspects were said to be wearing what looked like short-sleeved RCMP shirts, blue pants, police-duty belts and firearms.  They drove an old black, four-door sedan.

Vancouver Police spokesperson Const. Jason Doucette said the incident "has taken the CRA scam to new level."

"Taking physical control of someone like this can be considered kidnapping," the officer said.

Surrey scam

On Thursday, Surrey RCMP sent its own statement about CRA scams.

It said a member of the community lost $18,000 in a telephone scam. A statement said the con artists — a man and a woman — said they had a warrant that could only be settled if the victim paid.

Frightened by the threat of arrest, the victim bought Bitcoins and sent them to the scammers.

"People can be vulnerable to this type of scam when they are unsure of how taxes are collected in Canada," said Cpl. Elenore Sturko in a statement.

"We want to share important information about tax collection and to assure the public that they will not be threatened as part of the tax collection process."

Real CRA won't threaten arrest

Police said real agents from the CRA will never use intimidating language or threaten arrest. They also don't take credit card payments. 

People can confirm the status of their tax accounts and verify whether communication is really from the CRA by calling 1-800-959-8281 or by checking the "My Account" tab at the agency's official website.

Police said callers will never be penalized for double-checking whether they're talking to the real CRA.