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Alert: Businesses targeted by tax scam

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Cybercriminals pretend to be a high-ranking worker inside a corporation and asks a business manager for opies of all the legitimate W-2s belonging to employees. (Source: 3TV) Cybercriminals pretend to be a high-ranking worker inside a corporation and asks a business manager for opies of all the legitimate W-2s belonging to employees. (Source: 3TV)
Virginia Senior says various scammers have already tried to target Urban Beans in the past but were unsuccessful. (Source: 3TV) Virginia Senior says various scammers have already tried to target Urban Beans in the past but were unsuccessful. (Source: 3TV)
Senior hopes businesses won't fall for it this year. (Source: 3TV) Senior hopes businesses won't fall for it this year. (Source: 3TV)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

Cybercriminals are trying to trick payroll employees who work for businesses. The scam first surfaced last tax season and this year, it's already getting traction.

Business is pretty brisk at the Urban Beans Bar in central Phoenix. It's a 24-hour cafe that employs around 20 people.

"What can I get for you today?" Virginia Senior said.

Senior owns the business which attracts a wide variety of customers. In fact, on this day, we even got a glimpse of Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi and her wife Penny Taylor.

Besides staying busy at the front counter, Senior is active behind the scenes getting ready for the tax season.

For example, she has to get W-2 forms out to all of her workers.

"We take it very seriously because when we have employees fill out forms we know that they have very sensitive information like their Social Security number, their address," Senior said.

And all that information can be a treasure trove for scammers. That's why the IRS is warning Valley businesses to be on the lookout for a tax scheme called the "Form W-2 Scam" claiming it has "...emerged as one of the most dangerous phishing emails in the tax community."  

"It's really important not to fall prey for these scams," Senior said.

Senior says various scammers have already tried to target Urban Beans in the past but were unsuccessful.

So, here's how the Form W-2 Scam works: Cybercriminals pose as a high-ranking executive within the corporation and emails the business manager asking for copies of all the legitimate W-2s belonging to employees. Remember, Senior reminds us those documents contain all kinds of sensitive information about the employee.

"It's terrible," she said.

Crooks then take that personal information and sell it on the dark web.

"It’s very concerning. Luckily, nobody but myself and my partner has [sic] access to that information," Senior said.

According to the IRS, employers across the country fell victim to the scam last year which resulted in hundreds of thousands of employees who had their identities compromised.

Senior hopes businesses won't fall for it this year.

"I think if people are working that hard to scam, they should work that hard to do an honest day’s work," Senior said.

By the way, the scam also targets school districts and their payroll departments.

[RELATED: WESD employees' W-2 information compromised in phishing scheme (April 15, 2016)]

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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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