|Taxing authority for the United States of America.
The Internal Revenue Service warned
today of a fraudulent scheme currently circulating that uses
fictitious bank correspondence and IRS forms in an attempt to trick
taxpayers into disclosing their personal and banking data. The
information fraudulently obtained is then used to steal the taxpayer’s
identity and bank account deposits.
The IRS has received reports of the
scam surfacing from coast-to-coast, including in Maine, New York,
Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, California and the state of
Washington. Dozens of U.S. and foreign victims have been identified
In this scam, a letter claiming to be
from the taxpayer’s bank states that the “bank” is updating
its records in order to exempt the taxpayer from reporting interest
or having tax withheld on interest paid on his or her bank accounts
or other financial dealings.
Legally, banks must report interest
to the IRS and taxpayers must include it as income.
The “bank” correspondence
encloses a phony form that purports to come from the IRS and seeks
detailed personal and financial data. The letter urges the recipient
to fax the completed form to a specific number within 7 days or lose
the reporting and withholding exemption, resulting in withholding of
31% on the account’s interest. The scheme promoters then use the
faxed information to impersonate the taxpayer and gain access to the
One such phony form is labeled “W-9095,
Application Form for Certificate Status/Ownership for Withholding
Tax.” The form requests personal data frequently used to prove
identity, including passport number and mother’s maiden name. It
also asks for sensitive financial data such as bank account numbers,
passwords and PIN numbers that can be used to gain access to the
The fictitious W-9095 appears to be
an attempt to mimic the genuine IRS Form W-9, “Request for
Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification.” The only
personal information a genuine W-9 requests is the name, address and
Social Security number or employer identification number of the
Another form used in the scam is Form
W-8BEN, “Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for
United States Tax Withholding.” There is a legitimate IRS Form
W-8BEN, which is used by banks to ensure that their non-U.S.
customers meet the criteria to remain exempt from tax reporting
requirements. However, the W-8BEN used by the scam promoters has
been altered to ask for personal information much like the W-9095.
This altered form targets residents of foreign countries who bank in
the United States.
Another totally fictitious IRS form
used in this scam is labeled “W-8888.” It too asks for
information similar to the phony W-9095 and W-8BEN.
The real Forms W-9 and W-8BEN can be
found on the IRS’s Web site at www.irs.gov.
The Treasury Inspector General for
Tax Administration investigates a wide variety of offenses,
including the misuse of IRS insignia, seals and symbols and identity
theft related to tax administration. Taxpayers who have received a
fraudulent letter and form should report this to TIGTA by calling
the toll-free fraud referral hotline at 1-800-366-4484, faxing a
complaint to 202- 927-7018 or writing to the TIGTA Hotline, P.O. Box
589, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, D.C. 20044-0589. TIGTA’s
Web site is located at www.ustreas.gov/tigta.
Identify theft is a federal crime
under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998.
Violations of the Act are investigated by federal agencies such the
U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and the Postal Inspection Service and
are prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Use of the U.S. mail to
commit fraud is another federal crime investigated by the Postal
Identity thieves can use someone’s
personal data to:
over his or her financial accounts.
up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards.
for loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the
fraudulent tax returns.
People who receive the fraudulent
letter and form in the mail should immediately contact TIGTA and
their financial institution about the attempted fraud. Those who
have already been victimized by this scheme should contact the fraud
or security department of their creditors, banks and financial
institutions, as well as TIGTA and their local police department and
postal inspector’s office, to report the identity and financial
Additionally, victims should report
the identity and financial theft to the fraud units of the 3 credit
Credit Information Services, Consumer Fraud Division
Union Fraud Victim Assistance Department (800-680-7289)
A copy of the scam letter and phony
W-9095 may be found on the Office of the Comptroller of the
Currency’s Web site at www.occ.treas.gov.
Additional information on identity theft, mail fraud and
investigative responsibilities may be found on the following Web