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HARRISBURG (WBRE/WYOU) – State regulators warned Tuesday that an email scam targeting Pennsylvania businesses and corporations is now expanding to public schools and non-profits.
Secretary of Revenue Eileen McNulty says the scam, which seeks to obtain your W-2 income tax information, first appeared last year and is expanding to more employers – including public schools, chain restaurants, temporary staffing agencies, healthcare and shipping and freight companies.
Eyewitness News first reported the scam in January after several thousand UGI employees had their information potentially compromised in the scam.
It works like this: Cybercriminals disguise an email to appear as if the message is from an organization’s executive officer. It’s sent to payroll or human resources employees requesting a W-2 form for each employee in the organization, allegedly for the current tax season.
The IRS reports that some companies have given the scammers both their employees’ confidential tax information from the W-2s and thousands of dollars in wire transfers.
“This large-scale theft can give criminals sensitive financial information about employees that can be used to commit various crimes, including tax identity theft by filing a fraudulent tax return in the name of the victim,” McNulty said.
Anyone receiving one of these emails is urged to forward it to both the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue at RA-RVITFRAUD@pa.gov and to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org and write “W2 Scam” in the subject line.
If you’re a victim of the scam, you can get some help with the Federal Trade Commission or the IRS .
Pennsylvania residents should be on the lookout for unsolicited inquiries for personal information, according to state Attorney General Bruce R. Beemer.
Beemer issued a warning Monday that his office has received a number of complaints regarding a phishing scam. State residents have been targeted via email and text messages.
During one attempt, a woman claimed she was sent a text message from a scammer posing as a representative of a legitimate financial institution. The message directed her to fill out personal bank account information on a website.
“Your bank will never ask you to provide personal information in an unsolicited email, text message or phone call,” Beemer said. “These scams aim to cause confusion and force consumers into a quick decision. It is extremely important to take the time to assess the situation. When in doubt, contact your bank.”
PayPal users should also be on alert for another scam. A man reported that he received a message about an erroneous purchase. To cancel the transaction, he was asked to enter his account information on a spoof website.
The Bureau of Consumer Protection advises those who believe they are being targeted by scammers to do the following:
• Never reply to unsolicited emails, pop-up messages or texts asking for personal or financial information.
• Do not call any phone numbers contained in messages. Also, do not open any links or documents contained in these messages — they may route you to a bogus website or download a virus onto your computer or mobile phone.
• Providing sensitive information to strangers by phone is as dangerous as sending it in an email.
• If you are not sure whether your bank or another company is trying to reach you, call the company directly at the telephone number on your card or monthly statement to speak with a representative.
• Carefully review your account statements to look for unauthorized transactions.
Anyone who wishes to file a complaint is urged to contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-(800)-441-2555 or submit here electronically.