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Be on Alert for W2 Scams

Dec 7, 2018 4:19:21 PM

Dear Client,

 W2 scams and identity theft are on the rise and as we approach the W2 season, we wanted to pass along information recently published by the IRS to help you and your employees be on alert and help prevent any issues:

 IRS Tax Tip 2018-188, December 6, 2018

Small businesses should be on-guard against a growing wave of identity theft and W-2 scams. Employers hold sensitive tax data on their employees – such as Form W-2 data – which is highly valued by identity thieves.

All employers are targets for the W-2 scam. This scheme has become one of the more dangerous email scams. Here’s how it works:

  • These emails appear to be from an executive or organization leader to a payroll or human resources employee.
  • The message usually starts with a simple greeting, like: “Hey, you in today?”
  • By the end of the email exchange, all of an organization’s Forms W-2 for their employees may be in the hands of cyber-criminals.
  • Because payroll officials believe they are corresponding with an executive, it may take weeks for someone to realize a data theft has occurred.
  • Generally, the criminals are trying to quickly take advantage of their theft, sometimes filing fraudulent tax returns within a day or two.

This scam is such a threat to taxpayers that a special IRS reporting process has been established. Here’s an abbreviated list of how a business should report these schemes. They should:

  • Email dataloss@irs.gov to notify the IRS of a W-2 data loss and provide contact information. In the subject line, type “W2 Data Loss” so that the email can be routed properly. The business should not attach any employee personally identifiable information data.
  • Email the Federation of Tax Administrators at StateAlert@taxadmin.org to get information on how to report victim information to the states.
  • File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Businesses and payroll service providers may be asked to file a report with their local law enforcement agency.
  • Notify employees. The employee may then take steps to protect themselves from identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission’s www.identitytheft.gov provides guidance on general steps employees should take.
  • Forward the scam email to phishing@irs.gov.

 Be sure to keep track of payroll news, updates, and more via the Proliant blog. 

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