ArupDutta, 68, a retired aerospace engineer, returned to his Ville St-Laurent home last Tuesday, Dec. 3, to find a voicemail waiting for him.
“Hey, Arup,” said a man identifying himself as Johnny Rico, who said he was calling from the Canada Revenue Agency.
“I’m trying to reach you with regard to a legal issue,” the man said, and left an Ottawa phone number.
Dutta called back as soon as possible, and was told he owed $1,248 in back taxes. The man and another man who identified himself as a supervisor at the CRA told Dutta he had to pay that afternoon, or face jail time and a criminal record.
“That really scared me,” Dutta said.
Dutta withdrew the $1,248 in cash from a bank teller, and then headed directly to a gas station, as instructed. He was supposed to put the money on a pre-paid card. When the station didn’t have the forms for the card, Dutta— worried he would miss the men’s deadline — went home to phone them again.
When Dutta called the number the second time, the supposed supervisor answered. Dutta thought that didn’t make sense.
“That’s when I started to smell a fish,” Dutta said. Within moments, he figured out it was a scam and hung up.
Since then Dutta has contacted the real Canada Revenue Agency, as well as Montreal police and the RCMP. The revenue agency told CBC it was not familiar with that scam, but Dutta said the CRA employee he spoke to mentioned at least one other person being targeted.
An Internet search of the phone number used to call Dutta revealed other people complaining about receiving similar calls.
Meanwhile, an official at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre said the best thing victims, or near-victims like Dutta, can do is come forward.
“All of the information he has about the scheme is useful,” said Daniel William, senior call centre supervisor at the centre, which is run jointly by the RCMP, Ontario provincial police and the competition bureau.
“To spread it as far and wide as he can through his own circle [is good]," William said. “Of course, sharing it with the media, [is] fantastic.”
Dutta said he’s happy to warn others, but shaken by the experience — and still unsure why he came close to becoming a victim.
“It was very silly. When you think about it — I still can't get over it,” Dutta said. “It is embarrassing.”