The IRS has issued an urgent warning about an old scam which has come back with a new twist. The W-2 phishing scam started out targeting large corporations, but has now evolved beyond the corporate world and is targeting school districts, tribal organizations and nonprofits.
The scammers will use various spoofing techniques to disguise an email to make it appear that it came from an organization executive. The email is sent to an employee in the HR or payroll department requesting employee W-2 forms, and a list of all employees on staff.
“This is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time. It can result in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns. We need everyone’s help to turn the tide against this scheme,” explains IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
But that’s not all. Scammers have also been following up with another scam – phase two as they’re calling it. The cybercriminal will follow up with an “executive” email to the payroll or comptroller asking that money be wired into a certain account. Although this is not considered “tax related” the cybercriminal is coupling both scams together resulting in some companies losing not only their employees’ W-2s, but also thousands of dollars due to wire transfers.
BBB has received reports of attacks on organizations in East Texas and advises all establishments in the area to take the following steps:
- Inform All Employees With Access to Distribute This Information: The IRS, states and tax industry urge all employers to share information with their payroll, finance and human resources employees about this W-2 and wire transfer scam. Employers should consider creating an internal policy, if one is lacking, on the distribution of employee W-2 information and conducting wire transfers.
- Send the Scam Email to Officials: According to the IRS, organizations receiving a W-2 scam email should forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org 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: Taxpayers and tax preparers should be leery of using a search engine to find technical help with taxes or tax software. Clicking the wrong “tech support” link could cost you. 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.
As of March 2016, the IRS identified 42,148 tax returns with $227 million claimed in fraudulent refunds. One way businesses and other organizations can help combat identity theft is by helping educate their employees, clients and customers.
“Cybercrime continues to be a major issue”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “It is becoming increasingly important for businesses to be vigilant in protecting their systems and their data against intruders, potential theft and other cybercrimes which could affect the company.”
Correcting the Problem
If your company has been affected by this or is affected in the future by another breach, the most important thing to do when you discover identity fraud is to take action right away. BBB provides multiple resources to aid with the prevention as well as with the aftermath of a breach. Go to bbb.org/cybersecurity for more information.
Report all unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS or an IRS related function to email@example.com. Likewise, please contact the FBI’s cybercrime division (IC3.gov), and report it to BBB Scam Tracker. For more information about how to be a savvy business owner, please go to bbb.org.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.
Online Dating Scams Give Love a Bad Name
Over the years, the internet has become a major resource for people looking for love. According to a 2015 survey by Pew Research Center, 15 percent of U.S. adults have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. With more people using online dating, scammers are taking advantage by creating compelling backstories, full-fledged identities then trick you into falling for somebody who doesn’t exist. Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas (BBB) urges consumers to be on the lookout for scams being populated on online dating websites and on social networks.
“The romance scam is very similar to other types of consumer fraud, however, in this case the scammer’s main tool is affection and eventually love,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, president and CEO of BBB Central East Texas. “They use this feigned devotion to swindle thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars from their prey”.
Targeting single and widowed men and women, love scammers are setting up fake profiles committing anywhere from three to twelve months to woo their victims into emptying their pockets. Often times scammers claim to be in the military or working overseas as a reason to not meet you in person.
BBB warns consumers of the following love scam operator tactics:
- They claim to be from the U.S., but they are overseas for business or family matters.
- They profess their love at warp speed, usually within 24-48 hours.
- They send gifts within the first few weeks of contact both to endear their victims to them as well as to confirm their victim’s address.
- Many claim to have lost a spouse in a tragic accident.
- They insist you keep the relationship a secret.
BBB offers the following tips to help avoid heartbreak:
- Never send money to someone you have never met and whom you don’t know well. If you are asked to send funds via wire transfer, prepaid credit card, Green Dot Moneypack, or any unusual method of payment, discontinue contact immediately. If you refuse to send money to a scam artist, they will move on to someone else.
- Don’t click on links or open attachments. Links can download malware onto your computer which are designed to retrieve information and compromise your identity.
- Never share personally identifiable information. Refrain from sharing banking and credit card information, birthday and Social Security number with anyone you don’t know.
- Don’t be pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically make you think something is scarce. They want to push you into action before you have time to think or to discuss it with a family member, friend or financial advisor.
- Be cautious about what you share online. Be sure to use privacy settings on all social media and online accounts. Imposters often get information about their targets from their online interactions and can make themselves sound like a friend or family member because they know so much about you.
For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please use BBB Scam Tracker or call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373)
BBB to Host Shred Events in October
Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas is hosting Shred Events in your area in October. The events are designed to help individuals and small businesses fight identity theft by offering free shredding services for up to three (3) boxes or bags of documents per vehicle. For these events BBB will be joined by partners; City of Van, Austin Bank, Lindale Chamber of Commerce, Shred-It, and Ark-La Tex Shredding Co., Inc.
“Individuals and small businesses should be proactive in protecting their personal information and that of their clients”, said Betsie Chimney, Engagement Specialist for BBB serving Central East Texas. “The first rule in identity protection is if you don’t need it, destroy it responsibly.”
Shred-It and Ark-La Tex Shredding Co., Inc. are generously donating their shredding services for the events. Shredder trucks and volunteers will be on hand to assist with shredding documents and hand out information on identity theft protection best practices.
BBB serving Central East Texas is part of an expansive network of BBBs across North America that collaborate to produce Secure Your ID Day Events. The program is a BBB branded identity theft, fraud prevention and educational initiative that features on-site document destruction and distribution of identity protection tips and resources to local communities.
October Shred Days are as follows:
BBB Shred Day Co-Sponsored by City of Van & Shred-It
Date: Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Time: 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: Van City Hall, 133 W. Main St., Van Tx
BBB Shred Day Co-Sponsored by Austin Bank & Shred-It
Date: Saturday, October 14, 2017
Time: 12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Austin Bank, 9111 NW Loop 281, Longview, Tx
BBB Shred Day Co-Sponsored by Lindale Chamber of Commerce & Ark-La Tex Shredding Co., Inc.
Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: Lindale Chamber of Commerce, 205 S. Main St., Lindale, Tx
For more information about these events, contact BBB at 903-581-5704 or by going to bbb.org.
BBB Tips in Light of the Equifax Databreach
One of the nation’s thee major credit reporting agencies, Equifax experienced a data breach from mid-May through July. According to Equifax, 143 million American consumers person information was compromised. The hackers accessed names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and a few driver’s license numbers. They also stole 209,000 credit card numbers and 182,000 dispute documents with personal identifying information. The United Kingdom and Canada was affected as well.
“Being proactive is very important, as it does help reduce the chances of having your identity compromised”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB serving Central East Texas. “However, there’s never a guarantee that your information won’t get exposed. “
Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips to help protect yourself after a data breach:
- Stay calm. Consumers are not liable for fraudulent charges on stolen account numbers.
- Check your credit reports. Go to annualcreditreport.com for a free credit check from the three major credit reporting agencies. This is the only website authorized by the Federal Trade Commission to provide you with a free annual credit report. Be wary of ads, emails and social media messages for other services.
- Consider a credit freeze or fraud alert. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account with your information. However, it won’t prevent a thief from making charges to existing accounts. A fraud alert flags your credit reports, alerting potential lenders to verify the identity of anyone attempting to open an account in your name. Fraud alerts are free and don’t interfere with instant credit. However, it relies entirely on the diligence of the person performing the credit check and must be reinstated every 90 day days in most cases.
- Monitor your financial accounts. Check your bank statements online regularly and alert your bank if you see fraudulent charges. Keep receipts in case you need to prove which charges you authorized and ones you didn’t.
- Beware of phishing scams. Be on alert of scammers who may purport to be from the retailer, your bank, or credit card issuer, telling you that your card was compromised and suggesting actions to “fix” the problem. Phishing emails may attempt to fool you into providing your credit card information, or ask you to click on a link or open an attachment, which can download malware onto your computer
Equifax has created a website to assist consumers in determining if their information has been impacted and to sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. A dedicated call center is set up to assist consumers seven days a week from 7-1 a.m. EST at 1-866-447-7559.
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