FRESNO, Calif. – Several scams out there, but these two are particularly scary. Security leaders at the IRS are warning payroll and HR departments about a W2 phishing scam that appears to come from executive management seeking sensitive employee data. And an alert from the Better Business Bureau warns individuals about a phone scam across the country where the caller on the line starts the call with, “Can you hear me?”
The insidious “Can you hear me?” scam will trap the victim by simply answering “yes.” Here’s what’s going on, the scammer behind the call may have recorded you to use your confirmation to sign you up for a product or service then demand payment. If you refuse the scammers will try threatening you with legal action and produce your recorded “yes” response as your confirmation.
There is another variation of this scam where the scammer can charge your accounts as they may already have your personal information on hand through a prior data breach and that recording may be used to authorize charges. If you try and dispute them, they may also produce the recording as proof you agreed to charges.
The BBB Scam Tracker shows the scam popping in several places around the country including, but not limited to, California, Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania and Montana. The victims so far have not lost any money, but should still stay cautious.
Here’s what the BBB recommends to protect yourself from being the latest victim of this scam.
- If someone calls and asks “Can you hear me?” do NOT answer “yes” JUST HANG UP. The caller may even ask different questions designed for you to respond with “yes.” If they seem to be fishing for a “yes” or “no” answer do not respond and hang up immediately. The scammer can even be looking for you to say “ok” instead of “yes.”
- Never give any personal information over the phone unless you initiated the phone call yourself and have verified the number beforehand.
- Write down the phone number of those violating the Do Not Call Registry and file a scam report with BBB Scam Tracker and the FTC’s Do Not Call List.
- If you are asked to press a button to be placed on the Do Not Call Registry just hang up the phone. Saying anything or pressing buttons when prompted may help the scam artists identify you have an active phone number.
- If you believe you may have fallen for this scam contact your local authorities, your bank and credit card companies immediately. Also, check your account daily for any suspicious charges.
Remember that no Government agency will ever solicit you for the Do Not Call Registry, or harass you into paying them money.
IRS sounds a warning
Recently the Internal Revenue Service issued an alert to payroll and human resources professionals about an email scam, which first emerged last year, and is again working its way across the country. This scam is particularly dangerous say security experts.
Company payroll leaders should double check any executive-level or unusual requests for lists of Forms W-2 or Social Security numbers says the IRS
Says the CalChamber, “In this scam, cyber-criminals attempt to trick payroll and human resource officials into disclosing employee names, SSNs and income information. The thieves then use the stolen personal information and data to try to obtain money, including filing fraudulent tax returns for refunds.”
Security experts say the criminals send a fake e-mail pretending to be from the actual CEO or CFO of the company. In the email, the “CEO” requests a list of employees and information about the employees, including their SSNs, from company payroll officers or human resource employees.
Note some of the verbiage that may be contained in the emails: “Kindly send me the individual 2016 W-2 (PDF) and earnings summary of all W-2 of our company staff for a quick review.” or “Can you send me the updated list of employees with full details(Name, Social Security Number, Date of Birth, Home Address, Salary).” And, “I want you to send me the list of W-2 copy of employees wage and tax statement for 2016, I need them in PDF file type, you can send it as an attachment. Kindly prepare the lists and email them to me asap.”
The IRS warns that cyber-criminals are using more sophisticated tactics to try to steal even more data that will allow them to impersonate taxpayers. Employers can can visit the IRS website to get assistance with reporting phishing and other online scams.
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