Pattie Lovett-Reid: What to do if you suspect someone of being a CERB fraudster
You suspect your neighbour has been collecting government aid benefits fraudulently – what do you do next?
The natural response is to report it; however the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is going to want data to back up your suspicions.
As of June 3, 190,000 Canadians have repaid ineligible Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments, according to the CRA. Currently there are 600 tips of alleged misuse of the CERB and other COVID-19 emergency programs, such as the wage subsidy and student aid programs.
Every tip of potential fraud and misuse is investigated by the CRA, according to Jeremy Bellefeuille, a spokesperson for National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier. He told CTV News’ Kevin Gallagher the CRA expects both the number of Canadians making repayments and accusations of potential fraud to increase.
The reality is there will always be people who think they can outsmart the system and will take their chances that they won't get caught.
Defrauding the system isn't simply about applying for a benefit you aren't entitled to, it could also include the following, according the CRA:
- Failure to return to work when it is reasonable to do so or after their employer asked them to
- Failure to resume self-employment when it is reasonable to do so
- Declining a reasonable job offer when you know you are able to work
- Negotiating with your employer to work less hours so that you can qualify for the $1,000-eligibility threshold
The CRA has updated their website to include individuals who received CERB, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) but didn't meet eligibility criteria, and businesses and charities that are misusing the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).
Draft legislation would like to see those abusing the system be fined significantly and potentially serve jail time.
Fraud comes in many forms, so if you suspect it, you should report it. Your tip will be anonymous but it has to be fact-based and not opinion focused. If you do decide to proceed with a lead worthy of further exploration, know that once it is submitted you can't take it back. The CRA website breaks it down so you can clearly differentiate the two.
Here is how you to report it:
- By phone 1-866-809-6841
- By mail :National Leads Centre, Canada Revenue Agency, 200 Town Centre Court, Scarborough ON M1P4Y3
- By fax 1-888-724-4829
This isn't about being a snitch. It is about being fair and ensuring the right people get the help they need.