PEI

CERB fraud? P.E.I. woman worries about repaying benefits she didn't receive

A P.E.I. woman is worried she might be on the hook for $6,000 after she noticed three Canadian emergency response benefit payments were processed through her Canada Revenue Agency Account — but she hadn't applied for the program and never received the money.

'I feel violated. I feel like somebody could be doing more with the information they have of mine'

Rachel Birt says the Canada Revenue Agency is investigating her case. (Submitted by Rachel Birt)

A P.E.I. woman is worried she might be on the hook for $6,000 after she noticed three Canada emergency response benefit payments were processed through her Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Account — but she had not applied for the program and never received the money.

Rachel Birt says the last time her bank account received a payment from CRA was in April when she received her child care benefit. She said she was surprised to see CERB payments were processed from her CRA account when she logged in because they never showed up in her bank account.

"I'm worried someone is getting money that I'm going to have to pay back, that they shouldn't be getting," she said.

"How organized is the federal government and this emergency fund? They came out with it so quickly. I'm thinking, you know, hackers probably saw it has an opportunity."

Birt said she became suspicious when she received a notice in the mail telling her a CERB payment and her CCB would be processed on May 20.

"I believe my CRA account has been hacked and someone is using my social insurance number and applied to the emergency benefit and has been receiving it," she said.

Those eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit receive monthly cheques of $2,000. Birt says she never applied and did not receive CERB, but someone using her CRA account did. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Birt called CRA and said a representative told her the banking information linked to Birt's account was changed recently.

"Our bank account has not changed. My husband and I share an account at the Bank of Montreal and it has not changed in 10 years," she said.

Birt said she confirmed with her bank that none of the CERB payments were processed into her account.

"I feel violated. I feel like somebody could be doing more with the information they have of mine. My next step now I guess is going to be checking on my credit score," she said.

Birt said she is speaking out because she doesn't want others to fall victim. She said if anyone is getting payments through CRA like CERB or CCB they should make sure those payments are actually making it into their bank account.

"Just stay on top of it," she said. "What frightens me is I don't know what to do after that, if I am in fact being hacked or if I am a victim of a crime like that."

She said CRA is investigating her case and her account has now been suspended due to the investigation, so she currently doesn't have full access to her account. However, she was able to change the banking information back to her real bank account.

Advice on preventing fraud

Officials with CRA told CBC News in an email they have seen a number of different scams aimed at exploiting Canadians during the pandemic.

"To help protect themselves, we strongly recommend that all taxpayers sign up for a CRA 'My Account' which now includes 'Account Alerts' as an additional measure of security. Account Alerts notify taxpayers by email if their address or direct deposit information has been changed," the email said.

To change direct deposit information a taxpayer needs full access to their account, which requires a personal identification number, the email stated. Without the PIN, CRA said it is not possible to change banking information.

Officials also said, for security reasons, those applying for CERB have to confirm their social insurance number.

"If the CRA can confirm that a taxpayer has been a victim of fraud and that a CERB payment has been made to a scammer, the applicant will still be able to receive a CERB themselves if they are eligible," the email said.

CRA officials said all reported cases of suspected identity theft will be investigated and they work with the RCMP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

"Unfortunately, identity theft with CRA-related scams happen every year, with scammers acquiring taxpayers' personal information, including SINs, through a variety of means, such as phishing scams and data leaks," the email said.

More from CBC P.E.I.

About the Author

Tony Davis grew up on P.E.I. and studied journalism at Holland College. He can be contacted at anthony.davis@cbc.ca

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