How does it feel to get a hoax CRA call?


I was starting to sweat, actually if I am honest I was beginning to panic. All sorts of thoughts were racing through my head as I tried to process what I had just heard on the phone. The call had supposedly come from the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) and it had told me I was under federal investigation for problems with my tax papers.

This really happened last night folks, to me, the owner of EsterhazyOnline. And yes, I really did feel fear, and panic, and that sick feeling you get in your body when you don’t know what the heck to do. All sorts of fearful questions were racing through my mind, they conjured up horrible images of police investigations, and shame, and ruin. But the first question I should have asked myself only came to my befuddled mind ten minutes later, “Is this a hoax or is it real?”

As it turned out it was a hoax, a really nasty one, and you’ll find out how I came to that conclusion as you read this story. And please, share this story with other Canadians, for this terrible “business” of telephone and email hoaxes defrauds good people out of more than $70 million every year.

When the call came in at 2:48 yesterday afternoon, I was fortunate to be on another call at that time. Why fortunate? It means the call went to my voicemail, allowing me not only the luxury of listening to it many times, but also the ability to play it back for the RCMP today.

Anyway, it was sometime after 8pm last night that I finally checked the voicemail, and what I heard literally drained the blood from my face. Here, word for word, is what the caller said.

My name is officer Johnathan Knight from CRA, that is Canada Revenue Agency. The matter in hand is extremely time sensitive, and needs your urgent concentration for the same. The reason for the urgency is that we have found misconduct on your tax papers, because of which you are found fallacious, and under federal investigation. Don’t try to disregard the message, and if done, it will be seen as an offense from your end. Give me a call back as soon as possible. Again, this is officer Johnathan Knight from Canada Revenue Agency.

After hearing those words for the first time I was in a state of panic. Sure, I knew that I had not done anything deliberately wrong in my taxes over the years, but I had done the taxes myself until this year, using one of those programs you can buy at numerous Canadian retailers, and so there was that gnawing possibility that in my ignorance I had screwed up royally.

Even though the caller had not given a number to call him at (a potential red flag) there was a number on the records of my phone, and it was an Ottawa area code. I decided not to call it because it was so late. Then, I literally paced the floor in my home office wondering what the hell to do. I was sweating, the blood had returned to my face and it was now bright red. I was scared, genuinely scared. It was a horrible feeling.

Then, I remembered that for the first time in years, I’d had an accountant do my taxes. I found his business card and called his office, knowing I’d get an answer machine. I left a frantic message, laced with genuine fear. I hung up and just knew there was no way I could sleep with these feelings racing through my body.

I went on Canada 411 and found my accountant’s home number. As I dialed it, I was praying he’d take the call. He did. I explained the situation and then I asked “Does the CRA really do this kind of thing?” At last, doubt was beginning to replace the initial fear.

The CRA does not call people unless they have been unable to reach them with repeated attempts by mail first” he said. “I would not lose any sleep over it, I’ll call CRA in the morning to check and get back to you.” he assured me.

At last the panic was subsiding, but the anxiety-producing adrenalin was still coursing through my body. I asked myself, “Why did the caller not identify me? He never used my name”. I also asked, “Why did he not give a callback number.” And, one I should have noticed right away, “Why did he have such a foreign accent?”

I went online and stared hitting the search engines for “CRA Hoax Calls” and was shocked to see how common this really is, but typically none of the common situations matched what I had been told. In most cases they ask for personal information, or scare people into making a payment, or want confirmation details that the CRA would already know. The fact that my call seemed to be unique added to my fears.

This morning, after a few hours had gone by, I heard from my accountant. He told me he’d been in touch with CRA and there were no problems with my records, there was no investigation, there was nothing to worry about. The CRA confirmed it had been a nasty hoax.

I went to the RCMP after that. I played the recording and gave the officer the number. We talked at length about the terrible problem that this is, and I was given the following advice to pass on to readers.

1. The CRA typically NEVER calls Canadians. They typically use the mail.

2. Do not call the number back.

3. If you have already called them back and you did NOT give any personal information or DID NOT send money, then get in touch with the CAFC, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. (WEBSITE HERE)

4. If you called the number and DID give personal information (SIN, bank details, business number, name, date of birth, etc) OR if you DID make payment (Paypal, cheque, money order, or any other method) THEN contact the RCMP immediately.

Later this afternoon, I received a call back from the RCMP. They had called the number associated with the voicemail and the line had gone dead within seconds. It is possible that the initial call was intended to strike fear into the listener (which it did!) and that it was intended to motivate a call back using the caller ID number listed on my phone. In this case it was the RCMP who called them back, not me.

If the intention is to provoke the call back, it is highly likely that it is a way of the crooks harvesting numbers that are now considered “hot leads” as it were. These numbers will likely be called back and then the pressure and extortion will begin in earnest.

I now feel glad that this was a scam, but even yet I feel a residue of the nervousness that the situation created. It was sheer hell.

What if I had taken the original call? Without the luxury of time to think about it, would I have fallen for some smooth-talker with aggression in his voice? Would I have given out personal or financial information? Worse still, would I have sent them money? I hope I would not have, but in the heat of the moment and with the panic that such a call provokes, who knows.

MANY Canadians fall for this every single day. One hoax caller admitted to the CBC that he raked in tens of thousands of dollars a day from what he called  “not so smart Canadians.”

And what if I had been an elderly and infirm pensioner? What if the fear had set off a heart attack? Yes, I bet that happens too.

The point it this. These ________ (add your own description!) are out to get as many people as they can, and they are getting smarter and more sophisticated all the time. So bottom line, NEVER take a call supposedly from the CRA on its face value. Tell the caller you will call back the CRA using a number you will obtain yourself. If they get angry then too bad! The CRA won’t be typically calling you anyway, and in the unlikely event that they do, they will understand if you call back on a number you are given independently by the phone directory services or an accountant.

CRA phone scams are big business, with call centers set up in foreign countries specifically to call Canadians like YOU and I. Learn from my horrible experience, and be wise.

31 responses to “How does it feel to get a hoax CRA call?

  1. My advice to all, if the phone call does not have a name and number that you know or if an 800 number which includes all 8 numbers, don’t answer it!!!
    They are now using local numbers, last week I got a call from my own phone number!!!!!!

  2. I just got the same call today! Wow. The message is verbatim to the one you received. I felt it was a hoax at the outset. There is no way they CRA would be contacting anyone presumably with such dire news, through a recorded phone message I was certain. I looked up to see if anyone else has had these.. and found this. Thanks for posting it.

  3. Exactly the same call came today, at first I had to listen a couple of times then looked up the information on line came across all of this and there you go. I thought all of these calls were supposed to be stopped with the no call sign-up? Sure hope that didn’t cost a bundle because nothing has changed at my house with the amount of prank calls coming in.

  4. Got one of these today. Came from number 613-366-3900, but it was Jonathan Knight. I panicked a bit, but then was like “wait a sec, a lot of people I know have been mentioning it on Facebook.” Anyway, almost exactly the same message, slightly different though.

  5. got this call this morning and like you it sent my blood pressure way up and my husband wasn’t home to deal with it and I felt I couldn’t wait , but again like you red flags,,, he didn’t mention a number to call back, he didn’t refer to us by name and then when I was going to call him I checked call display for a number and it did not say GOV’T OF CANADA or CRA?? another big red flag for me so like you I decided to google and low and behold your story matched mine right down to this creeps name:) thank you my blood pressure came down then I was just mad thinking a senior could have a heart attack getting a call like this . I posted your post then recorded the phone message and got that sent out on FB. 🙂 Hugs!

  6. I got the same call today and let it go to voicemail. The call originated at 613-699-2403. When I tried to call back a few minutes later the call went to voicemail extension #880201. I had reason to be concerned because my 2014 return has not yet been assessed (my wife’s was assessed 5 weeks ago and we are in business together). And I had just completed (about 2 hrs before the hoax? call) a CRA online procedure to get my CRA on line account access number set up, as I had yesterday, Sept 1, received an e-mail from CRA (looked very official) that there was important communications for me. I think a call to CRA tomorrow is in order!!! I am grateful I got to this page after googling: CRA officer misconduct

  7. Wow I just got the call. It’s exactly the same! Because I’m in the industry of questioning people and everything, I found it suspicious immediately. I am certainly more relived that I found your site to support my suspicions, before calling CRA or my accountant myself. Thanks for posting your experience. Hopefully this ridiculous, horrible hoax caller will be found and persecuted.

  8. I just got this call. Verbatim. I’m in the habit now of not answering the phone anymore if it’s a toll free or I don’t recognize the number. If it’s important then the caller will leave a message on the voicemail. In this case, they did leave a message, but it cut in at “time sensitive” so I knew right away it was a recording, and if I was in so much trouble, I would be getting more than a recorded message. These hoax calls are seriously driving me nuts…I wish there was a way to be rid of them once and for all.

  9. I am SO glad this article was posted, THANK YOU!!!!! I stumbled across it trying to find Jonathan Knight’s phone number at CRA to call back!!! (though I found 2 things off of the bat suspicious, No person that the call was addressed to (i.e. should be me or my husband) and no return phone number, which doesn’t make sense for something so urgent. They left 2 voicemail messages for me and have been pretty aggressively calling today!!!! Did scare the pants off of me though. That is a nasty one, and I can see how people would fall for it.

  10. sep 15th 2015 got the same call from this little prick ,, 613- 699 -2403 scammers .

  11. got 2 calls today from same scam, # 613 699 2403- but startled us though as we had been “randomly selected” to be audited this year by the CRA and just today checked with our accountant that our audit went in time! lolol

  12. Received the same call today… sent my mind racing, then calm when I saw this story…Thank you!!

  13. I got the exact call yesterday. Was nervous at first but then googles the name and got this story. I live on Vancouver Island.

  14. Carolyn
    I had the exact same message left twice from the same phone number noted above, 613-699-2403. I felt it was a scam because the CRA would likely try to reach me my mail, or email first, and there was no call back number left. The message was a recording, not personal at all. Great advice to call the CRA or whomever is asking for information from you, back through a phone number you know is legitimate. Many of the email scam web pages look identical to the real one.

  15. I got exactly the same call today – 28 Sep (actually two calls) and fortunately it was on my answering machine. I suspected it was a scam and searched the web for info and came on this site which confirmed my suspicions. The rule for everybody should be to never accept calls, e-mails at face value. Call the actual agency and not the number if given in the bogus telecall or e-mail.

  16. This is a terrible and heart traumatizing scam ~ I wish the negative energy perpetrated by ‘these people’ ‘officer’ – sic – Jonathon knight and group of !@$$HOLES to flow back to their hearts and ‘TRANSFORM’ Them into >>> PEOPLE with Kindness and Decency <<< . Otherwise, may ALL NEGATIVE ENERGY created by these 'scammers' fall back on them and ALL their relations. Easy.

  17. I have received this call as well exactly like the above posters. We are in a unique position as we do owe back taxes but are working with CRA to clear them up. How do we stop this guy from continuing to call. He does leave a call back number but does not address us by name. One of my kids listened to the message and is terrified we are going to be arrested. Should we just call block this number?

  18. And that is why all senior accountants in our office are unlisted – nobody wants a business call at home. Would you call your doctor at 8pm on Friday at his home because you found a lump?

    • Noel,

      No, I would not call my doctor at 8pm as we have an emergency room that I could go to. However, you are missing a crucial point. I don’t pay my doctor for her services, but I do pay my accountant well for his services. But your comment raises a question. It was the degree of the business rapport between my accountant and I that allowed such “out of hours” contact. In small town Saskatchewan we have not forgotten the importance of such. Does your company not encourage such personal service between accountant and client? If not, maybe something important has been lost.

  19. Yes got a call from him yesterday said I owed money to cra and that I was to spend time in jail called today I hung up called him back and gave him a blast he told me to shut up I told him shut up and fuck off its a scary call I thought I was in trouble

  20. Gt a call today…Haha funny when you know it ain’t true.

  21. Hey folks-all this advice to don’t give info, etc etc when the simple answer is “just hang up”!

  22. Got the exact same call today !!! OFFICER JOHNATHAN KNIGHT !! called CANADA anti-fraud right away

  23. I got this call not once but twice today.The guy who calls himself Jonathan Knight had me in tears big time.Now that I know it is a hoax i wish he would call back just so i could tell the jerk right off!!! He had me crying and i was so scared.

  24. I got the call twice today too. I had heard about this before so wasn’t worried this time;however, when I got the call last year, I was afraid but did not call them, instead googled to find that it was a hoax. The number that came up on my call display was about 20 digits long, which prevents it from being added to my call block on my phone. The message he left was exactly the same as above, except he used the words, “or else” !! LOL right.

  25. Got this call today, a Jonathan Knight asking us to call him back at 613-699-4491. He said we were being investigated for fraudulent and suspicious behaviour on our tax account. Me wife called me all worried about this message on our system, especially because we are expecting our 2015 tax refund in our account tomorrow. I felt a slight tinge of nervousness even though I knew it was a scam, so I did a quick google search and found your post. Thank you very much!

  26. I got the call today (twice within 20 minutes) – Now he is leaving a call back number, but otherwise message is the similar to that posted here. I had let it go to voice mail, and was suspicious of it being a hoax when I listened to it. Found this posting when I googled to find info on such a hoax.

  27. Yup got the call 613 699 4491 call Jonathan got an ext left a message im on to him what an as

  28. Phone call on Feb 26, 2016 @ 11:43 PST – call display “unknown” (so I didn’t pick up, allowing message to be recorded on my answering machine)

    “Hi, This is Officer Jonathan Knight from Canada Revenue Agency. This is to notify you that you are under federal investigation because of the unethical and suspicious activities highlighted in the audit 4(?) of your taxes. You need to call me back on 613-699-4491
    I repeat again, 613-699-4491
    Don’t try to disregard the message, or else it will be taken as an offence from your side.
    Again, this is Officer Jonathan Knight from Revenue Canada.”

    – voice of man with strong accent (possibly Phillipino?), ESL, some words hard to understand
    – name of who is “under investigation” is not mentioned (there are 3 taxpayers who could have answered the phone)
    – ends with “from Revenue Canada” (it’s CRA)
    – I know CRA would notify me/us by mail, not phone!
    – I gave details to CAFC via website

  29. Thanks for posting. Received this message twice today in BC. The 613 area code made me pause for a minute so happy I found your post.

  30. Received it today on my voice mail. Quite scary at first. Thank you for posting this! Very helpful.

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