The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies, and the tax industry have renewed their warning about an email scam that uses a corporate officer's name to request employee W-2s from company payroll or human resources departments.
According to the IRS, the email scam is making its way across the nation for a second time. The IRS urges company payroll employees to double check any executive-level or unusual requests for lists of W-2s or Social Security numbers (SSNs).
When the W-2 scam appeared last year for the first time, cybercriminals tricked payroll and human resource officials into disclosing employee names, SSNs, and income information. The thieves then attempted to file fraudulent tax returns for tax refunds.
This phishing variation is known as a "spoofing" email. It will contain, for example, the actual name of the company chief executive officer. In this variation, the "CEO" sends an email to a company payroll office or human resource employee and requests certain information.
Here are some examples of wording that may be contained in the emails:
- Kindly send me the individual 2016 W-2 (PDF) and earnings summary of all W-2s of our company staff for a quick review.
- Can you send me the updated list of employees with full details (name, Social Security number, date of birth, home address, salary)?
- I want you to send me the list of W-2 copies of employees wage and tax statements for 2016. I need them in PDF file type; you can send it as an attachment. Kindly prepare the lists and email them to me ASAP.
Though the IRS, states, and the tax industry have made progress in their fight against tax-related identity theft, cybercriminals are using sophisticated tactics to try to steal even more data that will allow them to impersonate taxpayers.
The IRS supports a national taxpayer awareness campaign called "Taxes. Security. Together." and a national tax professional awareness effort called "Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself." These campaigns offer simple tips that can help make data more secure.
—Richard R. Hammar
For more help identifying and preventing email scams, see "Six Ways Churches Can Thwart New Email Threat" in the March issue of ChurchLawAndTax.com.