How I was Scammed... Almost
On the morning of June 9th, 2017, I was neck-deep in work, when I got a call on my phone. The call was a recording. It was a very official sounding gentleman who announced his name as Officer Craig Williams. He informed me that there was a warrant out for my arrest! I was given a toll-free number to call back on. I was horrified – as can be imagined – having never had a single police case against me in all my life!
Red Flag #1: The call came through on my cell phone which has been issued to me by the company I work for. The phones are handed out with numbers, but it is the company that is billed for them. In other words, this phone number is not registered to me.
Ref Flag #2: The RCMP will never call you to inform you that there is an arrest warrant out for you. They’ll show up at your doorstep – if need be.
At this point, I was told to press 1 to continue. I pressed 1. A woman came on the line. She told me her name was Kimberley Sharron – who spoke (I am sorry to say – In an Indian/Sri Lankan accent). She asked me my name. I was surprised and said, that since she had called me, she needed to know who she was calling. Once I gave my name, she asked for my address, DOB and SIN.
Red Flag #3: If you get a call from an unknown number/person – do not give your name when they ask for it. If they are calling you – they should know whom they want to speak with – or at the least offer some form of identification. Do not offer your identification in any way.
She then told me that I was the person she was looking for. I was surprised. The phone had been in my possession for only the past 6 months. How could they even link it to me? ‘The CRA has all your data, ma’am,’ she assured me, with a laugh. So at this point, she explains to me that the crime is tax-evasion, that I would be fined $96,000.00 and perhaps even jail time. I was in shock and did the only thing I could. I asked how I could mitigate this. “Kimberley” slowed down and very kindly asked me to collect my things and leave the office. She would “guide” me through the steps.
- - Get government certified cards
- - Register the cards with her
- - She would give me a confirmation number and a cancellation number.
- - I would then have to go to the CRA building
- - Give them the cards
- - After which I would be “forgiven” my debt. After all, I was not deliberately defrauding the govt. was I?
- - But Most of all – do not speak with anybody about this!
Red Flag #4: Her constant insistence on keeping silence as to the matter, not speaking with anyone, as well as not giving me time to think was terrifying. She kept telling me how little time I had in hand (kept me in a state of apprehension/fear). Normally I would call my brother-in-law and consult him – which I failed to do.
The amount for which I was in “Transgression” was $3,988.00 – a very feasible amount, considering … but this much of a penalty? Sounded weird.
I gathered up my stuff and asked her what I should do. Should I go to the bank and get a draft? She assured me that the govt. wished to get its money through these “govt. certified cards”. She directed me to the nearest gas station.
Red Flag #5: Why would the govt. prefer gift cards over a bank draft – which is cash-in-hand, so to speak? When the govt. asks for reimbursement, a bank draft is almost always the preferred mode.
During my walk to the gas station – about two blocks away, little alarm bells were starting to go off. However, I could not entirely discount what was happening. At the gas station, she asked me to get STEAM cards. They come in a variety of denominations. She asked me to get 15 of $50s or 12 of the $100s. As I asked for the cards in the gas station, a gentleman next to me asked me if I was into gaming. I asked him why? He informed me what those cards were used for (later corroborated by my nephews). These are cards used for buying time for online games!
Red Flag #6: A gaming card to cancel a tax-debt? This is the twilight zone. At this time, I am two-thirds of the way convinced that this is a phishing scam and I am being made a fool of!
Sadly, the gas station did not have the cards. She urged me to go to the Walmart® in the area. On Gerrard Street. I took a cab to the mall, and found the Walmart®. There I pulled out my personal cell-phone and quickly typed up a note to the cashier – indicating I could not speak and that I needed a police officer. She told me there were none there! When I bought the cards, they did not even ask me why I needed so many, even though they could see I was clearly very distressed.
The mall security guard was equally unhelpful. He shrugged his shoulders when I asked him where I could find a policemen. He did not even ask me why? Some security!
Now “Ms. Kimberely” told me she had to register the cards.
At this point I had taken a deep breath and started googling scams with keywords “CRA”, “Steam Cards” and was horrified to read the accounts that I found. I knew she was fake. But I wanted her to know that I knew she was fake.
So I asked her to give me her employee ID. She did so with a big sigh. Then I told her I didn’t feel comfortable giving her the registration numbers. Why don’t I finish buying all the cards, and then I’ll email the numbers via email to the accounts dept? She sighed. Hemmed and hawed.
And finally she gave me an email id which made me want to laugh out loud in relief! It was a completely bogus account just by the email name. I wrote it down.
Then I asked her if she wanted me to be travelling all around town buying up these cards? At which she perked up and said that there was an Electronic Boutique next door where I should buy the next set of cards.
At EB I kept the phone on just to let her hear what was being said. The guy at the counter came across o me as asked what I needed. I told him I needed Steam® cards. The woman on the phone wants me to buy them. He laughed and said – did she say it was from CRA? And I said yes. And he said – hang up the phone, ma’am. It’s a big scam. So I hung up. He then advised me to go to the nearest police station and file a report. If needed he would come over and corroborate my story. I thanked him profusely.
Notice the difference in Customer Service at EB and Walmart®. At Walmart® – the evident lack of training or awareness of fraud – in front of their eyes was painful. Yet the man at EB was quick to jump to the absolutely correct conclusion.
So I took a cab to the Toronto Metropolitan Police Station where I duly recounted my story. He also assured me that this was a fraud that had been going around for a while. Lots of people are getting scammed. They did not file a report, however, they provided me the numbers for CRA Fraud Reporting, Equifax, and TransUnion. I was also told to inform my banks about what had happened. Because I had not given her the card numbers, they were unable to get any ready money out of me.
My banks have flagged my accounts for any suspicious transactions. CRA has filed a case. I have been given a case number, in case there’s anything I want to add to it.
Just to give you’ll a bit more Info about the scammers – should something similar happen to you:
- - The “RCMP Officer” who called me was a “Craig Williams” (I bet he is non-existent)
- - Sounded like a slightly older person (I’d say 50s) with a plummy voice
- - The Woman on the phone is “Kimberley Sharron”. A search on Google reveals her name to be that of a slightly known actress
- - She spoke in an Indian/Sri Lankan accent
- - The number she called from is 1-888-624-3195
- - The number is registered under a Kay’s Mart
- - Her “CRA Employee ID” is 100956 (who gives their employee id to a person on the phone?)
- - The email account which she gave me was: firstname.lastname@example.org. The domain accountant.com is for sale.
What you should do:
- - See my red flags above
- - Definitely talk to the police. If you gave them money, the police will file a report for you
- - The numbers you should keep in hand are
- o CRA Fraud Reporting:1-888-495-8501
- o TransUnion 1-877-525-3823
- o EquiFax: 1-800-465-7166
Please share this with as many people as you can. CRA Anti-Fraud Cell urged me to do so. They asked me to share, blog, tweet, whatever social media i can get my hand on - to provide this information to the public.
Thanks for reading.