The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 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 about employees.
The IRS has learned this scheme 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 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 verbiage 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) as of 2/2/2016;” and
- “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.”
“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,” says 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.”
Criminals using personal information stolen elsewhere seek to monetize data, including by filing fraudulent tax returns for refunds.