Phishing scams take on all different kinds of attack methods. Sometimes scammers will pose as a bank and other times they will attempt to exploit current events to bait-and-switch you into downloading something malicious. One method that arises especially around tax season in the United States relates to various forms citizens fill out. Of the many that exist, the W-2 is a constant in many Americans’ lives and cybercriminals try to capitalize on this.
This reality is driven home by a recent security advisory released by the FBI, which is responsible for monitoring and prosecuting cybercrime in the U.S. The report notes a spike in phishing scams related to the W-2 that were first noticed in January. The advisory gives the following information on the attacks:
[These attacks are] compromised or spoofed emails requesting W-2 information. Sometimes these requests were followed by or combined with a request for an unauthorized wire transfer.
The most popular method remains impersonating an executive, either through a compromised or spoofed email in order to obtain W-2 information from a Human Resource (HR) professional within the same organization.
Individual taxpayers may also be the targeted, but criminals have evolved their tactics to focus on mass data thefts.
This, as the report notes, is just one of many new attacks on the rise that relate to taxes. The FBI didn’t give a reason for the sudden shift in cybercriminal focus on sensitive tax data, but likely as I alluded to earlier it has something to do with tax season. Additionally, the emails are made to look very convincing as though the IRS is truly making the communication in question.
The critical thing to remember is that the IRS never initiates emails to gather sensitive data like that required in a W-2. Always be suspicious of such emails, no matter how official they may look. The IRS does give assistance to those who have fallen victim to the scam and gives detailed tips on what to do if you lose data (just click the link to the security advisory). The FBI also wishes to remain informed when phishing scams are occurring that uses their credentials and logos. To report such scams, email the Internet Crime Complaint Center at this address.
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