Thieves Are Using W-2 Scam to Get Employee Data, Tax Information

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (December 1, 2017) – The IRS is warning business, payroll and human resource communities about a growing W-2 email scam by which criminals are gaining access to W-2s and other sensitive tax information that employers have about their employees.

During National Tax Security Awareness Week this week, the IRS has been partnering with state tax agencies – including the Maryland Comptroller’s Office and tax industry stakeholders – to remind people about the importance of data protection.

W-2 scams put workers at risk for tax-related identity theft. The IRS recommends that all employers educate employees about this scheme, especially those in human resources and payroll departments. These employees are usually the first targets.

Here are five warning signs about the scam:

• The thief poses as a company executive, school official or other leader in the organization.
• Scam emails often start with a simple greeting. It can be something like, “Hey, you in today?”
• The crook sends an email to an employee with payroll access and requests a list of all employees and their Forms W-2. The thief may even specify the format in which they want the information.
• Thieves use many different subject lines and use words like “review,” “manual review” or “request.” In some cases, the thief may send a follow up email asking for a wire transfer.
• Because payroll officials believe they are corresponding with an executive, it may take weeks for someone to realize a data theft occurred. Criminals usually try to use the information quickly, sometimes filing fraudulent tax returns within a day or two.

This scam is such a threat that a special IRS reporting process has been set up. If you think you were a victim of this scam, visit IRS.gov to find out how to report it.