Tax season can also be scam season
If you’re like most Canadians, you’ve probably paid your 2015 taxes by now. (And if not, it’s time to hurry—the deadline is April 30!) That means you can completely forget about them until next year, right?
Well, not quite. In the past few years, Canadians have been targeted by a new scam that involves taxes. The fraudsters pose as agents from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and claim that you’re behind on your taxes or are guilty of tax evasion. They demand immediate payment, followed by a threat of police action. Often, they can be aggressive or verbally abusive.
Be on your guard
With tax season at its height, the frequency of these kinds of scams may increase. They are usually conducted over the phone, but sometimes the criminals use email. Here’s what to look out for:
- An email or phone call that sounds urgent, and warns of police involvement
- A request for personal information—anything related to your social insurance number, credit card, bank account or passport
- A threat about money owed to the CRA
- An email asking you to click on a link
If in doubt, call the CRA
As we all know, the CRA will never threaten to send the police to your house, put your privacy at risk by asking for personal information via email, or ask for payment by prepaid credit cards or Western Union. Those are the most obvious signs that someone is trying to scam you. But given how creative the criminals can be, it’s impossible to know what trick they’ll come up with next.
The best protection you can provide yourself is to be aware. Be very sceptical of any communication that comes to you through unusual channels (such as unsolicited phone calls). And if you have any doubt, simply hang up and contact the CRA yourself. Just that little effort will guarantee that you’ll never be scammed by creative crooks, and you’ll only pay what you legitimately owe.
3 tips on how borrowing can help you save
At Oaken, we generally believe in saving over borrowing. But that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, especially in today’s environment of low interest rates. Here are three situations in which borrowing can actually help you save, as long as you’re disciplined about how you use your money.
1. Borrow for RSP contributions
Almost everyone has some unused contribution room in their RSP account, and borrowing to top up that amount can be advantageous. Your contribution will create a tax deduction, and if you use the resulting refund to pay back part of your loan, you’ll be giving your savings a nice boost.
2. Borrow to invest
In addition to borrowing for your RSP, you can borrow to invest in a non-registered account. The advantage here is that your borrowing costs are considered tax-deductible. This isn’t a strategy for everyone, but with very low rates it can be worth considering.
3. Refinance your debt
This is a great way to knock down stubborn debts, like credit card balances. By borrowing at a low interest rate, you can cut your monthly costs dramatically, putting you well on the way to long-term savings. Consolidating several debts into a single payment can also make managing your finances an awful lot easier.
Obviously the decision on whether or not to borrow depends on a lot of other factors as well, such as your age, your income and your existing debt. But it’s important to remember that low interest rates can always still help you plant for your future.
Finding freedom before retirement
Are you one of the growing number of 40-somethings who sometimes catch yourself daydreaming of an epic adventure crossing the country by motorcycle? Perhaps you rode when you were younger, or promised yourself that one of these days you’d learn to ride but just never found the time?
Relax, you’re not alone. More and more people born when Justin Trudeau’s dad was prime minister are discovering (or rediscovering) a great hobby— motorcycling. With kids leaving the nest and disposable income more available, a lot of post-boomers are taking to the road on two wheels. And they may not even be lured by the leather and rock part either, they just have a sense of adventure.
The attractions of motorcycling are obvious. First of all, there’s the chance to explore the outdoors in total freedom. And then there’s the romance of a road trip, the opportunity to make new friendships (or renew old ones), the thrill of reliving your twenties with a bit more perspective on life…
But motorcycling isn’t just a trip down memory lane. Sure, you can buy yourself an old-style “chopper” that oozes the Spirit of the 60s if you want. But these days you can also buy very high-end, smooth-riding machines made by the likes of BMW, for an entirely different experience. There are also community clubs that promote safe and responsible motorcycling, and they’re a great place to meet fellow enthusiasts too. Motorcycling has an awful lot to offer, and it’s not just for kids in their 20s. To read a bit more about this growing activity, check out our recent post on the Oaken Blog.
It pays to pay us a visit
Our Oaken stores in Toronto and Calgary are always ready to welcome you with a cup of coffee, a friendly smile and a place to chat about you and your savings. We’ve got great interactive displays that let you dig deep into our financial solutions, as well as private meeting rooms where you can learn more from our staff about planting for your future. But that’s not all…
We also hold regular draws from among our visitors—every quarter, in fact. This time around our winner was Vishy Ramakrishnan of Toronto, ON. Vishy won a $500 Oaken GIC just by visiting our Toronto store, having dropped by on the afternoon of March 4th.
As you know, we pride ourselves on always being open and available, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch at any time you would like to discuss your needs.
Your spring reading list
Spring is just about getting into full gear now, so it must be time to get out the patio furniture and soak up the sun! Here are some articles to enjoy before you get going on your next novel.
- Some additional advice on avoiding scams during tax season.
- If you’re receiving a tax refund for 2015, this article can help you with your tax planning next year.
- Are negative interest rates a real possibility? We explored this issue further last month on our own Oaken Blog.