Before checking your inbox take heed that there is a new e-mail scam targeting foreign taxpayers holding U.S. bank accounts. In this latest scam, an email claiming to come for the IRS requests personal and financial information for tax exemption purposes. The actual purpose? Identity theft and cleaning out your bank account.
Here is an example of an e-mail claiming to come from the IRS:
"Our records indicate that you are a Non-resident, and that you are exempted from the United States of America Tax reporting and withholding on interest paid to you on your account and other financial benefits. To protect your exemption from tax on your account and other financial benefits, you need to re-certify your exempt status to enable us confirm your records with us. Therefore, you are required to authenticate the following by completing form W-8BEN attached and return same to us as soon as possible with a valid copy of government issued Identification (e.g., International Passport) through the email at the bottom of the form."
This appears to be an identity theft scheme to obtain recipients' personal and financial information so the scammers can clean out their victims' financial accounts. In reality, a request for a Form W-8BEN, W-8 or W-9 would be made directly by your bank not the IRS.
Why Banks Need Your Social Security Number
A social security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued by the Social Security Administration to all U.S. citizens, permanent residents and temporary working residents. The purpose of a social security number is to track individuals for taxation purposes. Federal law requires private businesses to collect an SSN when the Internal Revenue Service requires notification of the transaction. Banks and other financial institutions require individuals to provide an SSN when engaging in financial transactions.
Banks are required by federal law to participate in a Customer Identification Program for the opening of new accounts. Individuals opening up a checking account, savings account or renting a safe deposit box are required to provide the bank with a valid name, date of birth, current mailing address, and a social security number. Banks are required to verify the accuracy of the information by also requesting proof of identification in the form of...