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Newest email scam: Request for W-2 information

The Internal Revenue Service issued an alert this week directed at payroll and HR professionals. An emerging phishing scam seeks personal information of employees by "spoofing" the email of a company CEO.

In this post, we will update you on this sophisticated twist to an old scheme that has already claimed victims. The IRS Criminal Investigations unit is reviewing cases where Social Security numbers were shared inadvertently with cybercriminals.

In the more typical scam, frausters usually pose as revenue agents. In a December post, we wrote about phishing emails targeting tax professionals.

Verify identity

These emails can look valid. They may contain the following requests:

  • Please send an updated list of employees (name, date of birth, Social Security number) as of 3/3/2016
  • Send 2015 employee W-2s and an earnings summary for a quick review

The requesting email will look like it has come from the CEO and will contain his or her name. If you receive this type of request, you need to be diligent about confirming the identity of the person requesting the information.

Increasing email schemes

The IRS also renewed a broader consumer alert on email schemes. This tax season the Service has seen a 400 percent surge in malware and phishing incidents. Emails try to trick taxpayers into believing they are from the IRS or a tax software company. Topics relate to refunds, filing status and tax transcripts.

All these tax-related emails have the same theme: they seek personal information. Stolen personal information is lucrative and used to file fraudulent tax returns and refunds.

Remember the IRS does not communicate via email. The Service uses letters to notify you of an audit or request for additional information. If an email appears to be from a CEO or tax software company, verify the sender's identity before responding.

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