Many people have experienced credit card fraud in their lifetime, but View Royal mayor and Victoria businessman David Screech had his literal persona stolen by a would-be CERB scammer last week.
The fraud was discovered after Screech received a legitimate email from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on Sunday saying his email would no longer be used for correspondence relating to his CRA account. He thought it odd and that night decided to log into his account to investigate further.
What he found was “really unsettling.” Not only had his direct deposit information been changed to a bank in Ontario and the email CRA had on file for him changed, Screech found that whoever tapped into his account had also applied for $4,000 in CERB EI payments. He remains astonished that someone could access the account given the multiple levels of security CRA uses for identification.
“You definitely feel angry for sure, but I think you feel just very concerned about the implications and the ramifications,” he told Black Press on Wednesday, noting that the CRA has both his personal and business information.
“Your social insurance number has so many different ways of identifying you – for passports and banking. The fact somebody’s physically got into your CRA account and applied for CERB benefits on your behalf – it’s offputting.”
Screech spoke with the RCMP about the fraud, but chose not to start a police file, saying he planned to take their advice and contact the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre first to get more details on next steps.
However, for now he and his wife have been busy contacting banks, credit reporting agencies and others to give them a heads up about the fraud.
“I’m certainly looking at password management programs or apps, because I think possibly storing passwords on your computer may not be the best idea,” he said.
CERB-related fraud has become so prevalent in Canada that the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre has an entire page devoted to potential frauds of which the public should be mindful.
Back in June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used one of his daily addresses to report that proposed legislation crafted to reduce fraudulent CERB claims was written so “that those who knowingly and wrongfully claim the CERB face consequences.” The bill was rejected by opposition parties at the debate stage and sat frozen at first reading in Ottawa.
While he would rather not have been the poster child for anti-fraud messages, Screech took the opportunity to remind the public to keep their eye on their CRA account, and at the very least, consider changing passwords and other access points for personal information.