Insight / 22 June 2018

Alert: Phishing scam using fake IRS forms aimed at non-U.S. resident taxpayers

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a warning on phishing scams aimed at getting your banking and personal details in order to steal your money and identity. It has seen a rise in taxpayers receiving bogus letters, emails and calls that appear to come from the IRS, your tax professional or tax software companies.

In particular, criminals are sending fake W-8BEN forms to international taxpayers and non-U.S residents.

What is Form W8-BEN and how does the scam work?

Form W8-BEN – Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting is a legitimate U.S. withholding certificate often used by non-U.S. individuals to claim exemption from withholding.

You only file a Form W8-BEN with your withholding agent (for example, your bank), not with the IRS.

Criminals pretending to be from the IRS mail or fax a letter asking you to fill out (a fake version) of Form W-8BEN.

These bogus letters and forms ask for information such as your:

  • mother’s maiden name
  • passport number and details
  • bank account information (pin numbers and passwords)

Read more about the Form W8-BEN and other scams on the IRS website.

How to spot a Form W8-BEN or other tax scam

To determine if someone is trying to scam you, keep in mind that:

  • The legitimate Form W-8BEN does not ask for your mother’s maiden name, passport details or bank account information.
  • The IRS will not reach out directly to you to request a Form W-8BEN (your withholding agent or financial institution will generally do this and you should verify your institution has made the request).
  • The fake letter or fax also may refer to a Form W9095, which does not exist.
  • The letter may mention anti-money laundering regulations require a review of your client information and ask you to complete the form.
  • The letter may ask you to complete the form in order to protect your exemption from tax reporting and withholdings on income, including interest paid to you.

In addition, the IRS will not:

  • Demand that you use a specific payment method or ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone. If you owe taxes, you can make payments to the U.S. Treasury or review irs.gov/payments for online payment options.
  • Demand you pay tax immediately. You would receive a letter in the mail and can appeal or question what you owe.
  • Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law enforcement to arrest you for not paying. The IRS can’t take away your license or change your immigration status.

If you receive a scam letter or call

  1. Do not reply.
  2. Do not open any attachments. (Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.)
  3. Do not click on any links. (If you clicked on links in a suspicious email or phishing website and entered confidential information, visit the IRS identity protection page to find out what to do.
  4. Forward the email to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.
  5. After you forward the email, delete the original email message you received.
  6. Report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at its IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting site.

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ATAS Tax Services

Taxes are what we do. Our accountants know the ins and outs of taxes for U.S. taxpayers residing in and outside the United States. The ATAS team can assess your tax liabilities and help you choose the best options for you. For all of your tax-related services, you may contact ATAS directly at info@atas.tax or call us at any of our offices.