Scam Update: A Warning For International Taxpayers

International Taxpayers

This time the criminals are targeting foreign aliens and international taxpayers – again.

Yes, the IRS has said that it seems the crooks are recycling some of their old tricks while adding a new twist. In this latest scam, the IRS says that criminals use a fake IRS Form W-8BEN to solicit detailed personal identification and bank account information from victims.

Here’s how they work it.

You’ll receive a letter through the mail or fax indicating that although you are exempt from withholding and reporting income tax, you need to authenticate your information by filling out a phony version of Form W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting. Recipients are requested to fax the information back.

If you have filed for foreign status certification, you may recognize the Form W-8BEN. It is a legitimate U.S. tax exemption document. But, the fact is, it can only be submitted through a withholding agent. In the past, fraudsters have targeted non-residents of the U.S. using the form as a lure to get personal details such as passport numbers and PIN codes.

Take note: The legitimate IRS Form W-8BEN does not ask for any of that personal kind of information. The phony letter or fax also refers to a Form W9095, which does not exist. Once your foreign status is certified, the IRS doesn’t require a recertification.

Criminals typically target non-residents of the U.S. and use the W-8BEN format to acquire personal details such as…

  • mother’s maiden name
  • passport number
  • PIN numbers and passcodes

I repeat: The legitimate IRS Form W-8BEN, does not ask for any of that information.

According to the latest information from the IRS, the fraudulent forms use various angles that may claim, for example:

  • Anti-money laundering regulations require a review of your client information and ask you to complete the form.
  • You are exempt from tax reporting and withholdings on income including interest paid to you. To protect your exemption from tax please complete the attached form.

The IRS Does Not Ask Any Of The Above, Nor Do Any Of The Following:

  • Demand that people use a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS will not ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone. For people who owe taxes, make payments to the United States Treasury or review IRS.gov/payments for IRS online options.
  • Demand immediate tax payment. Normal correspondence is a letter in the mail and taxpayers can appeal or question what they owe. All taxpayers are advised to know their rights as a taxpayer.
  • Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law enforcement to arrest people for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke a license or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into believing their schemes.

Taxpayers who receive any letters, phone calls, faxes or emails asking for personal information should report to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at its IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting site and to the IRS by emailing phishing@irs.gov with the subject line “IRS Impersonation Scam.”