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Scam Alert: Cybercriminals Target Employees W-2 Information

by T. Scott Gilligan, OFDA legal counsel

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued an advisory to businesses regarding e-mail scams from cybercriminals that are targeting employee names and Social Security Numbers.  The purpose of the scam is to obtain employee payroll information from the businesses so that the cybercriminals can file false tax returns that request refunds.  The scams are typically discovered when the employee files his or her own tax return and discovers that a false tax return has already been filed by the scam artist using the employee’s name and Social Security Number.


The IRS indicates that the cybercriminals often will go on state government websites to obtain information regarding the officers of a corporation.  The scammers will then send an e-mail to the officer, pretending to be the IRS, and requesting the executive to provide copies of Form W-2 or Social Security Number for employees.


Another variation of the scam is for the cybercriminals to send a fake e-mail from the company’s officer directly to the payroll office of the targeted company requesting a PDF file of W-2’s and earning summaries for all employees.  The IRS indicates that the following statements are typically found in the e-mails:

  • 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 copy of employees wage and tax statement for 2016, I need them in PDF file type, you can send it as an attachment. Kindly prepare the lists and e-mail them to me ASAP. 


Ohio funeral homes should be very wary of receiving any type of e-mail request from the IRS.  The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail to request personal or financial information.  This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.