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BBB® Warns Public against a Malicious and Deviously Executed Tax Scam

Michigan Business Network
February 21, 2017 5:30 PM

bbb.pngBBB is warning businesses, organizations and employees of a dangerous email scam targeting human resource and payroll executives as well as employees within companies. -

Detroit, MI – February 21, 2017 – BBB is warning businesses, organizations and employees of a dangerous email scam targeting human resource and payroll executives as well as employees within companies. This new W-2 scam can result in significant monetary loss and identity theft due to the type of information they are able to obtain. In this scam, fraudulent emails are disguised (“spoofed”) to appear like they are coming from a business executive and they are being sent to human resources and finance personnel asking for information such as a list of employees, social security numbers and dates of birth, as well as W-2 tax forms.

An example of one of these phony emails could look like this: “Can you send me the updated list of employees with full details (Name, Social Security Number, date of birth, home address and salary),” or “Please send me the individual 2016 W-2 and earnings summary of all of our company staff for a quick review.” Because the emails appear to be coming from an executive, personnel can easily be fooled into giving this sensitive information to criminals. This theft can result in scammers filing false tax returns, opening credit lines and other forms of identity theft.

In a new twist, scammers are now targeting employees as well. Recently BBB has been made aware that emails are being sent to staff members within companies in an attempt to get them to click on a fraudulent link which they state will allow the employee to view their W-2 and pay stub information. These emails are being spoofed to look like they are coming from ADP, one of the more well-known payroll providers. These can look like this: “The Human Resources/Payroll Department has completed the final pay-stub changes for 2017 tax year. To view the changes to your pay-stub information and view/download your W-2 forms (2014 - 2016 tax years), go to (link removed).”

“This scam is one of the most powerful and potentially damaging scams we have seen due to how scammers are getting information and the sensitivity of the information they are targeting,” said Melanie Duquesnel, President and CEO of BBB Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. “Busy payroll staff and other employees could easily see these as routine emails around tax time and can unwittingly provide criminals with large amounts of personal information – much more than they could get in a credit card scheme.”

How to Stop W-2 Theft:

Meet with Finance Staff: Communication to human resources and payroll staff is extremely important to inform them of this scam immediately. Let them know that they should feel free to question any requests for this type of information and should ask for verification in person or by phone before sharing any sensitive employee information.

Communicate with all Employees: Employees might not understand how these schemes work so it is imperative to communicate the dangers of this scam to them. Initially sending an email to alert them is important, but as emails are sometimes ignored, speaking to them directly via a staff meeting or in one-on-one meetings would help to heighten awareness.

Review Policies and Procedures: As scams against businesses grow in number and sophisication, consider reviewing your policies to include procedures for authenticating requests that staff receive, such as one that requires voice communications to approve of any requests for personal information.

Schedule a Scam Prevention Training: This scam is not the only one targeting businesses. Consider scheduling a scam prevention training for your staff to address the most common business scams and how to avoid them. BBB offers trainings such as these and can be scheduled by contacting Demitria Robinson at 248-799-0305 or via email at drobinson@easternmichiganbbb.org.


About Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula is a non-profit organization with the purpose of promoting trust in the marketplace by assisting in the protection of consumers and businesses from fraud and unethical business practices. In addition to its recognized dispute resolution services, BBB maintains business reviews on the customer service history of more than 85,000 local businesses and provides consumer education materials on numerous topics. BBB provides its services free to the public and its service territory stretches across Eastern Michigan from Ann Arbor through Metropolitan Detroit, Lansing, Flint, upward to Alpena, and covers the entire Upper Peninsula of the state.

Michigan Business Network is an online broadcasting company that provides knowledge, news, and insights into Michigan’s businesses, industries, and economy.