IRS warns of new fraud scam

June 1, 2004 at 2:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Internal Revenue Service warned Tuesday of a new scheme to steal identity and financial data from some foreigners that get income from a U.S. source.

The scammers send out fake IRS letters and forms to trick foreigners into disclosing their personal and financial data. The information is then used to steal the person's identity and financial assets.

So far, the scheme has surfaced in South America, Europe and the Caribbean.

Identity thieves can use the data to steal financial accounts, run up charges on the victim's credit cards, apply for new credit cards in the victim's name, and other purposes.

In this particular scam, an altered IRS Form W-8BEN, "Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding," is supposedly sent from the IRS to non-resident aliens who receive income from U.S. property such as securities or bonds.

There is a real IRS Form W-8BEN, but it doesn't ask for extensive personal information like the altered form does. Also, only financial institutions such as banks would send out the form, not the IRS.

There are about 2.5 million non-resident aliens who receive U.S.-sourced income, based on IRS data.

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