Hundreds of thousands of banks and financial institutions across the world are on alert after Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) scammers have tried to access financial information about US taxpayers.
The warning from the US Internal Revenue Service was triggered as reports of phishing attacks were reported by FATCA compliant financial organisations in dozens of countries.
The IRS posted a web site warning and has sent the alert to around 750,000 financial institutions making FATCA reports in more than 200 countries.
The warning explains criminal gangs posing as IRS officials are sending letters, faxes and emails to financial institutions requesting specific account holder personal and financial account information.
However, the IRS has not confirmed or denied whether the bogus agents have compromised data security.
What to do if you are a victim
“Tax scams are an unfortunate fact of modern life and come in many guises and do not respect international borders,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
“The IRS does not contact financial institutions or US taxpayers to ask details of account passwords or confidential information to access accounts.
“These scammers are looking to access accounts for cash. Anyone who believes they have given information to one of these criminals should change their access details to their accounts immediately and report the matter to the IRS and financial institution.”
US taxpayers who suspect they may be scam victims should call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) on 800-366-4484 or make a report through TIGTA’s secure website.
FATCA compliance started from July 1, 2014, and this is the first widely-reported attempt by fraudsters to breach the system’s security.
Bogus IRS agents
More than 100,000 financial institutions from more than 220 financial jurisdictions have registered with the IRS online FATCA portal.
Under the legislation, they provide online reports of personal identification, bank accounts and investments and balances over $50,000 of US resident taxpayers to the IRS. For the 6 million US expats, the reporting trigger is an account balance of $200,000.
Although the IRS has remained tight-lipped about the information scammers have targeted, it is believed to be personal information such as passwords and usernames to allow them to access cash in accounts.
The IRS has confirmed ‘multiple’ attempts by crooks posing as official agents have taken place in several countries on different continents.
“The approaches include contact with foreign tax authorities whose governments have a FATCA agreement with the US,” said an IRS spokesman.