The IRS has recently issued a warning about a new scam that targets international taxpayers in which fraudulent versions of foreign withholding and reporting certificates are used to solicit sensitive taxpayer information. The alert noted that criminals, possibly impersonating IRS personnel, have been issuing fraudulent or doctored forms, specifically altered versions of the Form W-8BEN (Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting) and the nonexistent Form W9095, to international taxpayers in an effort to collect information such as passport number, bank PIN, account numbers and mother’s maiden name. The official Form W-8BEN does not ask for any of this information. Furthermore, the criminals, when impersonating the IRS, are requesting that these forms be faxed back to the IRS via a false fax number. The IRS noted that withholding certificates, such as Form W-8BEN, should never be faxed to the IRS by a taxpayer as they can only be submitted through a withholding agent.
If any taxpayers receive a suspicious request for sensitive taxpayer information, whether purportedly from the IRS or not, they should confirm that the request is authentic before providing any information. The IRS website provides many resources to help taxpayers identify and report scams. The IRS website also hosts copies of all official forms so if you suspect that a tax form you have received has been altered you can check the form you have received against the official version on the IRS website. Identity theft and fraud can result in serious financial loss. If taxpayers suspect that they are the victim of one of these scams they should contact a tax advisor immediately to ensure that the appropriate safeguards, such as alerts and freezes, are put in place to minimize their risk.