The IRS has issued an important warning about an unlawful “phishing” scam spreading throughout the nonprofit sector. The scam starts with an email requesting W-2 information for a nonprofit’s employees. Cybercriminals use various spoofing techniques to disguise the email to make it appear as if it is from an organization executive. The email is sent to an employee in the payroll or human resources departments, requesting a list of all employees and their Forms W-2. This scam is sometimes referred to as business email compromise (BEC) or business email spoofing (BES).
In an added twist, some cybercriminals follow up with an “executive” email to the payroll or comptroller asking that a wire transfer is also be made to a certain account. Although not tax related, the wire transfer scam is being coupled with the W-2 scam email, and some companies have lost both employees’ W-2s and thousands of dollars due to wire transfers.
The IRS urges all employers to be vigilant. DO NOT share payroll information via email. Verify a request without sharing any employee information. Ideally, create an internal policy on how employee W-2 information is stored, who has the authority to access it and share it, and proper approval and accounting controls for processing wire transfers.
Organizations receiving a W-2 scam email should forward it to email@example.com and place “W2 Scam” in the subject line. Organizations that receive the scams or fall victim to them should file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3,) operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Be Safe Online
In addition to avoiding email scams during the tax season, taxpayers and tax preparers should be leery of using search engines to find technical help with taxes or tax software. Selecting the wrong “tech support” link could lead to a loss of data or an infected computer. Also, software “tech support” will not call users randomly. This is a scam.
Taxpayers searching for a paid tax professional for tax help can use the IRS Choosing a Tax Professional lookup tool or if taxpayers need free help can review the Free Tax Return Preparation Programs. Taxpayers searching for tax software can use Free File, which offers 12 brand-name products for free, at www.irs.gov/freefile. Taxpayer or tax preparers looking for tech support for their software products should go directly to the provider’s web page.
More detailed information about these scams is available on the IRS website. If you are a victim of one of these scams and have had your personal information stolen, the website can instruct you on how to file a complaint and further protect yourself.