An e-mail claiming to come from the IRS claims:
“Our records indicate that you are a Non-resident, and that you are exempted from the United States of America Tax reporting and withholding on interest paid to you on your account and other financial benefits. To protect your exemption from tax on your account and other financial benefits, you need to re-certify your exempt status to enable us confirm your records with us. Therefore, you are required to authenticate the following by completing form W-8BEN attached and return same to us as soon as possible with a valid copy of government issued Identification (e.g., International Passport) through the email at the bottom of the form.”
This appears to be an identity theft scheme to obtain recipients’ personal and financial information so the scammers can clean out their victims’ financial accounts. In reality, a request for a Form W-8BEN, W-8 or W-9 would be made directly by your bank not the IRS.
Why Banks Need Your Social Security Number
A social security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued by the Social Security Administration to all U.S. citizens, permanent residents and temporary working residents. The purpose of a social security number is to track individuals for taxation purposes. Federal law requires private businesses to collect an SSN when the Internal Revenue Service requires notification of the transaction. Banks and other financial institutions require individuals to provide an SSN when engaging in financial transactions.
Banks are required by federal law to participate in a Customer Identification Program for the opening of new accounts. Individuals opening up a checking account, savings account or renting a safe deposit box are required to provide the bank with a valid name, date of birth, current mailing address, and a social security number. Banks are required to verify the accuracy of the information by also requesting proof of identification in the form of a driver license, passport or by contacting a credit reporting agency that would have information on file based on the SSN. Banks are also required to obtain a SSN on existing accounts and where there is no SSN, the banks are required to withhold tax at the source (that means your bank account) and remit your money to the IRS. Banks check the SSN against government terror lists, to limit terrorist financing and fight against money laundering.
How The Scam Works
Using a technique calculated to get almost anyone’s attention, the e-mail notifies the recipient that he or she to protect their exemption from tax on interest paid to you on your account and other financial benefits you must complete a tax form with their identifying information (such as Form W-8BEN) and email it back along with a copy of a government-issued ID.
Unusual for a scam e-mail, it may contain a salutation in the body addressed to the specific recipient by name. These scam e-mails are sent using the same technique used by spammers, in which hundreds of thousands of messages are sent to potential victims based on Internet address. Because of the volume, the typical scam e-mail is not personalized.
Beware this e-mail is a phony. The IRS does not send unsolicited, tax-account related e-mails to taxpayers. Also, any domain name in sender’s email or reply email address contained in the email are not legitimate as the domain name for IRS is “irs.gov”.
So What Should You Do?
If you get an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for your identification, here’s what you should do:
Report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
And if you do owe taxes and you have not already resolved this with the IRS or you have not disclosed your foreign accounts as required by the IRS, then that is where we come in. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. Connect with me on TaxConnections as we are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.
Original Post By: Jeffrey Kahn