Fake Form W-8BEN Used in IRS Tax Scams, Don’t Get Hooked!

By:  Coleman Jackson, Esq.
Nov 13, 2014

Fake Form W 8BEN

What is Form W-8BEN?

The Form W-8BEN (Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding) is a legitimate U.S. tax exemption document. You can only submit Form W-8BEN directly to your withholding agent.

How IRS Form W-8BEN Scammers target taxpayers?

Scammers usually target taxpayers who either did not or were not able to timely file their tax statements before the April 15th deadline.  IRS Form W-8BEN Scammer’s typically send out scam mails (email, postal service mail, facsimiles, etc.) to acquire taxpayer’s personal information.

IRS Form W-8BEN Scammers will typically target non-resident aliens residing in the United States since they are the taxpayers who are likely to file a “Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding.”  Many Americans who were born in the United States does not have any ownership interest, signatory authority, beneficiary interest or other controlling interest in any offshore accounts or overseas assets.  The Form W-8BEN Scammer send altered versions of the FORM W-8BEN asking a number of personal inquiries that are NOT needed for the real form (for instance mother’s maiden name, passport number, date of birth, PIN numbers and passcodes).  The legitimate IRS Form W-8BEN does not ask for any of that information.

Following screenshot shows both altered form (first) and original form (second).

Altered Form W-8BEN

Altered Form W-8BEN

Original Form W-8BEN

Original Form W-8BEN

The fraudulent forms use various angles that may claim, such as the following:

  • Anti-money laundering regulations require a review of your client information and ask you to complete the form.
  • You are exempt from tax reporting and withholdings on income including interest paid to you. To protect your exemption from tax please complete the attached form.

Although this type of email could be rather convincing; especially to members of the immigrant communities, there are key several factors that could alert immigrants that email is a tax scam:

  • IRS would not ask for your bank account number or PIN
  • IRS would not ask for this form to be submitted through a private fax number
  • IRS would not ask for the form to be sent urgently, with them withholding 30% “of the interest paid to you” as a consequence for your delinquency in only a week-span of time

How Non-Resident Immigrants Can Protect Themselves From IRS W-8BEN Scammers?

If you receive such a scam via email, fax, mail, or other format, consider taking the following action(s):

  • Do not reply.
  • Do not open any attachments.
    Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer, smart phone, smart television, or tablet.
  • Do not click on any links.
    If you clicked on links in a suspicious email or phishing website and entered confidential information, visit IRS’s identity protection page.
  • Forward the email as-is, to IRS at phishing@irs.gov.
  • After you forward the email and/or header information to IRS, delete the original email message you received.

This blog is written by

Coleman Jackson, PC | Immigration & Tax Law Firm.  www.cjacksonlaw.com
214-599-0431 (English) | 214-599-0432

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