OTTAWA — An Ontario woman who fell victim to a telephone tax scam has her money back — not from the scammer, but from a stranger who says he went through a similar experience.
The woman, a university student named Beverly who lives in North Bay, Ont., said her faith in humanity was restored after a single donor responded within hours to her plea for funds to make up for the $600 she lost to a fraudster claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency.
"I am very grateful to him," Beverly said, her voice cracking as she recalled being brought to tears when she saw the donation.
"It was just an extraordinary act of kindness," said the 29-year-old who didn't want her last name published.
She has since reached out to the donor in hopes of meeting in person to thank him.
The donor, who identified himself online as Dan T, wrote to Beverly that he, too, was scammed and wanted to help.
"I know how it feels to fall for fraud," he wrote.
"I've been there but for a lot less of a loss financially then yourself, but it still felt very embarrassing as I was very security (conscious) at the time."
Beverly's ordeal began Wednesday when she received a pre-recorded voicemail warning that she faced arrest.
"This call is from the tax department of Canada Revenue Agency," a digital voice claimed.
"There is a case, a lawsuit, that is getting filed under your name," the message continued, adding that an arrest warrant would be issued. The message also included a return phone number.
Beverly said she was aware of fraud cases involving CRA but panicked and called the number anyway.
The person on the other end of the phone told her a police officer would call her to read her rights. When she got that call, her display indicated it was from the local Ontario Provincial Police detachment, she said.
"At that point I thought that this was really real," said Beverly, adding that she pleaded her case to the person claiming to be a police officer over a three-hour period.
"They were very convincing, they were very smart about it," she said.
Under instructions from the caller, Beverly paid $600 into a Bitcoin currency machine after being threatened with a lawsuit and jail time if she didn't comply.
But after being told to pay a further $400 for the "officer's fees and court costs," she ended the conversation and called police who informed her that she had been scammed.
Beverly's case isn't all that unusual. Nearly 1,000 people across Canada lost almost $4.7 million to nearly identical scams last year, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
What is out of the ordinary is that she was able to recoup her losses — and more — within hours of launching a fundraising web page pleading for help.
Of the dozen gofundme pages posted by other Canadians looking for similar help in the last couple of years, only a handful have received donations.
As of early Friday, Beverly had received two additional donations of lesser amounts, money she said will be donated to support anti-fraud efforts.
She also continued to receive communications from the scam artist after she contacted police, including some sexually explicit messages.
Calling her experience "frightening," the Laurentian University student said she decided to go public to prevent others from facing a similar circumstance.
"I hope that I can save at least one person from losing money the way I did."
The Canada Revenue Agency said it never requests that tax money owed be paid through money service businesses, iTunes gift cards or Bitcoin.
It advises people to always confirm the identity of callers before providing any personal information, and to check with the agency directly to determine if they owe back taxes.
Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press