The IRS has alerted the public to another pfishing scam making the rounds.

In this one, the taxpayer is mailed an official looking form to fill out, but that form has been altered so as to collect valuable information for identity theft, such as passport number, Mother’s maiden name, PIN’s and passcodes, etc.  The form in the example was an altered W-8BEN, which is the certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for US Tax Withholding and Reporting (Individuals).

The taxpayer may be enticed into filling out the form by being told that it will eliminate withholding from their paychecks.  Or there may be threats of some kind, such as closing bank accounts, or immediate arrest, or whatever if the forms aren’t filled out or some kind of payment is not made.  The letters or emails may have official looking letterheads or business logos.

Providing the info obviously gives the criminals the info needed to steal your identity.  And, they will also have your signature.  If they are lucky and their strategy works, they will receive some kind of immediate payment from you.  Money which you don’t owe.

As always, if you get an email like this, don’t answer it.

If you get a letter, don’t respond.

If you get a phone call, hang up.  Don’t provide the caller with any information.  If they say they are from the IRS, which is extremely unlikely, you can get a name and phone number that can be verified later.They will probably hang up or give you a fake number.

If you are nervous or have a reason to think the request is real, call your tax preparer.  They should be able to look at the email or document and determine its authenticity.  If not, they can help you get in touch with the IRS or help you in reporting the pfishing attempts to the IRS or the USPS.

And remember, the IRS does not:

  • Demand that people use a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer
  • Ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone
  • Demand immediate tax payment
  • Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law enforcement to arrest people for not paying