IRS Issues New Warnings For Recurring E-Mail Scams

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By Michael Trimarchi

A warning about an e-mail scam that uses a corporate officer's name to request employee Forms W-2 from payroll or human resources departments was renewed Feb. 2 by the Internal Revenue Service.

The scam, known as phishing, expanded to school districts, nonprofit organizations and tribal enterprises, the IRS said in a news release ( IR-2017-20). In such cases, the initial contact was followed by a fake executive e-mail to the payroll department or the comptroller asking that a wire transfer also be made to an account.

The e-mail scam uses a corporate officer's name to request employee Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, from the payroll or human resources departments.

In the scam, which first appeared in 2016, cybercriminals tricked workers into disclosing employee names, Social Security numbers and income information. They then attempted to file fraudulent tax returns for refunds, said the IRS, which was joined in its alert by state tax agencies and members of the tax industry.

Additionally, scammers combined efforts to steal employee W-2 information with an older scheme on wire transfers that victimized some organizations twice, the IRS said.

In such cases, cybercriminals follow up their initial contact with a fake executive e-mail spoofing the executive's e-mail account to the payroll or comptroller asking that a wire transfer also be made to an account. The wire transfer scam, though not tax-related, is coupled with the W-2 scam e-mail, resulting in employers’ loss of employee W-2s and any funds that were wired to the cybercriminals’ accounts, the IRS said.

Phishing scams, which can infect computer networks with malware, led the IRS fraud list for 2017, the agency said Feb. 1.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Trimarchi in Washington at mtrimarchi@bna.com.

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