For criminals seeking sensitive identity information, posing as the IRS – whether on the phone or in letters and emails – has been a successful tacit. Their targets change as quickly as the IRS warns of the latest scheme, however.
This current one goes after non-resident aliens and international taxpayers. The scam involves a request to authenticate information by completing a fake version of Form W-8BEN. Here is what the real form looks like.
A red flag is that this U.S. tax exemption document must be submitted through a withholding agent. The rules related to filing this document are complicated enough that you should seek advice before completing the form anyway.
A request for passport numbers and PIN codes
There are several other red flags that the person requesting the documentation is a scam artist. The real IRS form does not request these details, such as PIN codes or passport information.
A reference to Form W9095 is also an indication the request is not coming from the Service. This form does not actually even exist.
And recertification of foreign status is not something that the IRS will request.
Variations on scams
Criminals have gotten much better at mimicking IRS letters and spoofing the emails of tax professionals and even HR employees in large corporations. Even when something looks like an official communication, ask questions to ensure you do not fall victim.
Verify any request for mother’s maiden name, passport or other account information before giving these details. Once in the wrong hands, this information can quickly put your assets in jeopardy.
Several other reminders
The IRS and any third-party collection agencies do not ask for a specific method of payment. Any demand that you immediately pay (often with the caller wanting to stay on the phone) via prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer is a scam.
Normal correspondence is by mail and IRS agents do not call out of the blue. They also do not threaten arrest by local law enforcement.
If you know you owe back taxes or realize you should have filed an FBAR or tax return, there are options to return to compliance. A tax attorney can assist you through the process.