Hackers target schools for tax ID info

Hackers target schools for tax ID info

(District of Columbia) New twists on an age-old phishing ploy is targeting school districts across the county and gaining speed as tax season is fully underway, according to a warning issued this month by the Internal Revenue Service.

The scam, which has also been directed at tribal casinos and nonprofit organizations, begins with an e-mail to a fiscal employee that appears to come from an executive or other authority within an organization. The e-mail requests a list of all employees and their Form W-2–an easy entry for criminals to identity theft and interception of employee tax refunds.

“This is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, in a statement. “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.’’

According to agents, some of the fake e-mails can seem pretty innocent and more than one administrative clerk has been fooled largely because the actual man of the top executive is used. Here’s a sample of what the e-mails might say:

  • 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 email them to me asap.

An added threat that has recently surfaced is the same request seemingly being sent from the top executive to the organization’s comptroller or payroll manager asking for a wire transfer to also be made to a certain account. Although not tax related, the wire transfer scam is being coupled with the W-2 scam email, and some companies have lost both employees’ W-2s and thousands of dollars due to wire transfers, the IRS said.

“When employers report W-2 thefts immediately to the IRS, the agency can take steps to help protect employees from tax-related identity theft,” IRS said. “The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry, working together at the Security Summit, have enacted numerous safeguards in 2016 and 2017 to identify fraudulent returns filed through scams like this. As the Summit partners make progress, cybercriminals need more data to mimic real tax returns.”