Avoid Being Scammed by Fraudulent W-8BEN Form Requests

Tax scams are prevalent this time of year, so it is important to understand how to protect yourself against fraudulent information phishing.

Each year the International Revenue Service (IRS) issues warning about common tax scams. This year, one of the major warnings was in regards to Form W-8. The IRS wants individuals to know that the W-8 form series is to be completed by non-resident aliens who work or make income in the United States. It also is required for foreign business entities who make an income in the United States. Unfortunately, there are some who prey on these individuals and entities by sending false form requests to collect personal information for illegal purposes. Many of these requests are sent via email or through other electronic sources such as texts or social media.

How to Recognize a Tax Scam

According to the recent notice from the IRS, it is important for individuals and business entities to guard their personal financial information and be informed about fraud prevention. Current scams target non-U.S. persons and use the W-8BEN format to attain personal information such as:

  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Passport number
  • Date of birth
  • PIN numbers or passcodes

The IRS is very clear that they will never contact individuals or businesses by email to acquire secure information. Additionally, they will never ask for PIN numbers or passcodes in connection with the W-8BEN form. Unfortunately, fraudulent phishing scams may try to convince a person that a review of their tax information is needed or that they are exempt from tax withholdings and must complete an additional form.

How to Respond to Fraudulent Requests

If you receive a request for a W-8BEN form online or through email, do not reply. The IRS does not contact people in this fashion. Do not open any attachments to the email or click on any links included in the body of the message. Instead, report the email to the IRS by forwarding it to [email protected] This way, you are protected from harm and the government can assess the fraudulent claim and take any necessary action.

A W-8BEN Form should only ever be submitted to directly to your withholding agent (generally the person or business who is providing the income). If you have questions about the validity of a form request, contact them directly or speak with a tax attorney before providing any personal information.

Each year, many individuals are targeted in tax scams. Take the time to educate yourself about the processes and reporting requirements you are subject to so you can protect your information and avoid identity or financial theft.

About Freeman Tax Law

Freeman Tax Law (FTL) is a boutique law firm consisting of a multi-disciplinary team of tax professionals including tax attorneys, CPAs and a professional staff that have vast experience with foreign tax compliance and regulatory matters for financial institutions. FTL consults with both FFIs and USFIs with regard to Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and related regulatory matters and assists them developing procedures on how to comply with these laws. FTL provides a multidisciplinary approach for filing offshore voluntary disclosures. Working to help clients prevent future tax headaches we offer a complete wealth management and estate planning team. As an experienced firm with wide reach, Freeman Tax Law provides immediate assistance to our clients planning for and resolving all tax related challenges.

Freeman Tax Law

(855) 935-5945

[email protected]