Scammers finding new route to theft of taxpayer identity

Friday, January 27, 2017

A "phishing" scam reportedly played a part in this year's election by exposing thousands of internal Democratic National Committee emails to public scrutiny.

The actual results are debatable, but there is no question that identity theft will be devastating to individuals. Even after you find out your identity has been compromised and take the proper steps, "you have a new hobby," according to one famous financial adviser.

Scammers have discovered a new way to rip us off, and one that is potentially even more frightening than individual identity thefts.

Once in a while, they are able to trick human resources departments into exposing hundreds of employees to identity theft.

The email might go like this:

"Kindly send me the individual 2016 W-2 (PDF) and earnings summary of all W-2 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 copy of employees wage and tax statement 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."

Once they have the information, they can file fraudulent tax returns to obtain bogus tax refunds.

The IRS is urging company payroll officials to double check any allegedly executive-level or unusual requests for lists of W-2s or Social Security number.

The same holds true for individuals, of course, who should take special care not to provide personal information such as names, Social Security numbers and filing status to scammers.

The IRS remindes that it will never:

* Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you several bills.

* Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.

* Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

* Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

* Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or email.

* Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you receive calls or emails asking for information or payment and you do not owe tax, don't engage with the scammer and do not give out any information. Just hang up.

If you get an email asking you to visit a website or answer personal questions, do not reply and do not click on any links in the email.

If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, and you owe tax or think you may owe tax, do not give out any information. Call the IRS back at 1.800.829.1040 to find out more information.

You can also contact the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration -- TIGTA -- to report scam calls by calling 1.800.366.4484 or by using the "IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting" form on the website. You may also want to report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission by using the "FTC Complaint Assistant" to report persons pretending to be from the government; please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.

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