CRA snitch line now open to report fraudulent CERB claims

TORONTO —
Canadians can now report suspected fraudulent CERB recipients through the Canada Revenue Agency’s official snitch line.

The service’s “Leads Program” updated its website this week to include the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) funds to its list of reportable cheating activities.

“If you suspect a potential misuse of the COVID-19 emergency benefits and programs, the National Leads Centre is currently accepting leads on these programs,” the agency’s website now reads.

Last month, reports emerged that staff processing aid applications were told to ignore red flags of individuals not meeting criteria and to make payments even when there was suspected fraud. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later acknowledged that his government chose speed over scrutiny in processing aid payments and would “clean up after the fact.” “Our focus was getting help out to people when they needed it, as quickly as possible and cleaning it up afterwards,” Trudeau said repeatedly last month.

As of June 1, the government had processed more than 15 million applications for CERB, including more than eight million unique applicants, and paid out more than $42 billion in benefits.

Some Canadians may have inadvertently “double dipped” and received two payments when they were only entitled to one. Those individuals are able to return or repay the CERB benefit online or by mail. 

New reports to the snitch line are not the only step the CRA is taking to substantiate claims made, the Leads Program site reads, suggesting the government’s “clean up” process is underway: “The CRA and Service Canada have records of all individuals who’ve received payments for the CERB and CESB, and are verifying to make sure the payments were correctly allocated,” it says. “Similarly, various pre-payment verifications and post-payment reviews are being conducted by the CRA for the CEWS.”

The new update to the CRA snitch line is a shift in the revenue service’s position after earlier discouraging Canadians from reporting COVID-19 aid fraud as it processed payments. In April, a spokesperson told the National Post that the group’s focus was on “getting crucial (CERB) payments to those who urgently need it now.”

The Leads Program now encourages these reports, but details on its website what constitutes a complete and incomplete submission. A claim of CERB, CESB or CEWS fraud should include as many details to “enhance” the report as possible, but the CRA will take what it can get: “It’s not necessary to provide all the information below in your submission, simply tell us as much as you can,” the site reads, before listing items including details about the individual’s work and schooling situation, employer and eligibility. 

— to www.ctvnews.ca

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