IRS: Watch Out for a W-2 Scam Targeting Payroll and HR Departments

IRS: Watch Out for a W-2 Scam Targeting Payroll and HR Departments


The IRS, along with state tax agencies, renewed their warning about an email scam that uses a corporate officer’s name to request employee W-2 forms from company payroll or human resources departments.

The tax agency announced it has received new notifications that the email scam is making its way across the nation for a second time. The IRS urges company payroll officials to double check any executive-level or unusual requests for lists of Forms W-2 or Social Security numbers.

The W-2 scam first appeared last year. Cybercriminals tricked payroll and human resource officials into disclosing employee names, Social Security numbers and income information. The thieves then attempted to file fraudulent tax returns for tax refunds.

This phishing variation is known as a “spoofing” e-mail. It may contain the actual name of the company chief executive officer. In this variation of the scam, the CEO sends an email to the company’s payroll office or human resource employee and requests a list of employees and information including Social Security numbers.

The following are some of the details that may be in the emails:

  • “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 (Names, Social Security Numbers, Dates of Birth, Home Addresses, Salaries)?”
  • “I want you to send me the list of W-2 copies 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 email them to me ASAP.”

Cybercriminals are using more sophisticated tactics to try to steal even more data that allows them to impersonate taxpayers. Protect your company by not responding to email requests for personal information about employees.