IRS Warns About CEO Phishing Scam Emails

The IRS is warning payroll and human resources professionals to be wary of fraudulent emails that appear to come from their CEO and request personal details about employees.

The emails are phishing scams designed to steal the personal information of company employees and use the stolen data to commit various types of fraud and identity theft. The criminals sending the emails are using spoofing techniques to make it appear that the message was really sent by the targeted company’s CEO.

The IRS warning notes:

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued an alert to payroll and human resources professionals to beware of an emerging phishing email scheme that purports to be from company executives and requests personal information on employees.
The IRS has learned this scheme — part of the surge in phishing emails seen this year — already has claimed several victims as payroll and human resources offices mistakenly email payroll data including Forms W-2 that contain Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information to cybercriminals posing as company executives.

“This is a new twist on an old scheme using the cover of the tax season and W-2 filings to try tricking people into sharing personal data. Now the criminals are focusing their schemes on company payroll departments,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “If your CEO appears to be emailing you for a list of company employees, check it out before you respond. Everyone has a responsibility to remain diligent about confirming the identity of people requesting personal information about employees.”
IRS Criminal Investigation already is reviewing several cases in which people have been tricked into sharing SSNs with what turned out to be cybercriminals. Criminals using personal information stolen elsewhere seek to monetize data, including by filing fraudulent tax returns for refunds.

This phishing variation is known as a “spoofing” email. It will contain, for example, the actual name of the company chief executive officer. In this variation, the “CEO” sends an email to a company payroll office employee and requests a list of employees and information including SSNs.

The following are some of the details contained in the e-mails:

. Kindly send me the individual 2015 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 2015, I need them in PDF file type, you can send it as an attachment. Kindly prepare the lists and email them to me asap.

If you work  in payroll,  human resources, or related fields be very wary of this scheme. If you receive an email requesting W-2 or other information about staff members that that looks like it was sent by your CEO, take the time to verify that the email is legitimate before complying with the request.

Last updated: March 8, 2016
First published: March 8, 2016
By Brett M. Christensen
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IRS Alerts Payroll and HR Professionals to Phishing Scheme Involving W-2s

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