Tax season means a paperwork blizzard. Often, someone loses a copy of an important document and needs it reissued. Naturally, everyone’s too busy to verify the authenticity of each request.
That’s what scammers are counting on with a ploy targeting tax form preparers. In this scheme, the scammer sends an email claiming to be a hired company or someone from the IRS requiring duplicate copies of W-2s. An overworked clerk, fearing noncompliance with the IRS, innocently sends the forms.
Using the personally identifiable information on these forms, fraudsters can open fake credit cards, apply for loans or file a fraudulent tax return in an attempt to grab a refund check.
If you’re targeted
If you prepare W-2s, be on guard for these fake emails. Here’s the sample text from one such message:
“ATTN: Due to some complains (sic) we had concerning the W-2 mismatch, We advice (sic) you to send your 2018 filled W-2 form in (PDF) format for confirmation.”
Note the abbreviations, the typographical errors and the poor punctuation. These should tell you this isn’t the work of the IRS – the tax authority knows its grammar!
You may also get a similar message appearing to be from your boss. Watch for the same typos and confirm these requests in another message that you send (not as a reply to the original).
If someone really needs another copy, it’s safest to mail it to them. It’s also unlikely that someone will need copies of all W-2s. Be suspicious of any such request.
If you’re a victim
If your information has been unwittingly compromised, take these steps to minimize the possible fallout:
- Call the three major credit bureaus to request a fraud alert on your account. This will force anyone who wants to issue credit in your name to verify their identity.
- Order a copy of your credit report and review all the accounts that are open in your name. Review statements for the accounts you have as well. If you see a suspicious account or charge anywhere, shut the account in question immediately.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.identitytheft.gov.
It’s worth filing your taxes early. If a thief tries to file a tax return using your information after you’ve already done so, the IRS will be alerted to the fraud.