US IRS warns of dangers of spoof email scam aimed at payroll

The scam, which marks the start of tax season in the country, has resurfaced after first appearing last year.

The US Internal Revenue Service has warned that a payroll-based spoof email scam is now making the rounds for the second time after first appearing last year.

The phishing scam, which marks the start of tax season, involves cybercriminals sending an email that is apparently from the chief executive to members of the payroll or HR department in order to request lists of employee Forms W-2 or social security numbers. The aim is to get hold of names and income information, which is then used to file fraudulent tax returns in order to obtain bogus tax refunds.

Here are some examples of the wording of such 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 (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.

The IRS is urging payroll managers to double-check any apparent executive-level or unusual requests for lists of forms W-2 or Social Security numbers.