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2015 Taxes

It's Back: Second Wave of W2 Targets Payroll and HR Pros

Now that tax season is well underway, payroll and HR departments have once again been warned to double-check any requests for lists of W-2s or Social Security numbers (SSNs). This includes you and your clients! The W-2 scam that uses an actual corporate officer’s name to request information is making its way around the U.S. again.

CPA Practice Advisor reports the email scam first showed up last year. Cyber criminals trick your clients into disclosing employee or clients’ names, SSNs and income information, then the thieves attempt to file fraudulent tax returns for tax refunds.

What should you and your client look for in fraudulent emails

The IRS says this type of phishing is called “spoofing” because it appears to come from a legitimate source. It’s called Business Email Compromise (BEC) or Business Email Spoofing (BES). Here’s what you might find if one lands in your inbox:

  • The email contains the name of your client’s CEO or other top executive 
  • It includes a request for a list of employees and information including SNNs

The IRS lists some of the details that may be contained in the emails. The request may be worded in a variety of ways, but it always asks for information on all employees. Some examples include:

  • 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 copies of employees’ wage and tax statements 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.

New Spin: Requests to wire funds

The IRS says a new angle has emerged in this year’s scam. The cyber-criminal may send a follow-up email asking your client to wire funds to a certain account. According to the IRS, some companies have lost both their employees’ W-2s and thousands of dollars. 

What to do if you see the W-2 scam

The IRS offers this advice: 

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to your BenefitMall payroll representative.


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