The criminals are typically sending faxes or letters to prospects requiring them to fill out Form W-8BEN, “Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting”. The taxpayer is then told to fax the form back to the scammers pretending to be IRS employees.The letter they receive tells them the are exempt from withholding income tax but have to verify their details with the Internal Revenue Service.
While the Form W-8BEN is a legitimate IRS document that can be viewed at the above link it can only be handled by a withholding agent. There are also stories of scammers attacking non US residents as a means to get passport details and other pertinent personal information. Mitch Elbarki of Sigma Tax Pro points out, “An original form W-8BEN does not require the taxpayer to provide personal information.”
These kind of criminals will always find new means to prey on unsuspecting taxpayers, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams in recent times. As usual scammers take advantage of the regular mail, telephone, or email to contact their victims and the IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text messages to request personal or financial information. Tax pros should advise their clients to contact them directly anytime they receive a call from someone sayng they represent the IRS.