Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beware of Scams Involving Fake IRS Emails, Chinese Website Registrations, and Free Money!

By Robyn Guilliams

FTM Arts Law has learned of several email scams being perpetrated by individuals claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The most current scam involves foreign companies and IRS Form W-8BEN. According to the IRS website (,,id=211669,00.html):
In this scam, fraudsters modify a genuine IRS form, the W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding, to request detailed personal and financial information. This could include nationality, passport number, bank account and PIN numbers, spouse's name and mother's maiden name, or other personal or financial information or security measures for financial accounts. The scammers may use the genuine form number and name or may make up a new form number, such as W-4100B2. They either e-mail or fax the form or letter. If only a letter, the letter itself contains the request for the personal and financial information. The letter, which claims to come from the IRS, states that the recipient will face additional taxes unless he or she quickly faxes the required information to the number provided by the scammer.
We know of several foreign performing arts companies who recently requested Employer Identification Numbers from the IRS and subsequently received an email, supposedly from an IRS employee, requesting financial information from the company.

Note that all email addresses for actual IRS employees end in the suffix "" (e.g., If you receive an email from a supposed IRS employee with any other type of email address (such as ""), it is a fake!

Also, the IRS will NEVER initiate contact with anyone by email. If you receive an email purporting to be from the IRS, do not respond to the email!,,id=155682,00.html to find out how to spot these scams, and how to report the emails to the IRS.

In addition, we have also had several clients contact us recently about emails they have received from entities claiming to register/audit domain names in China and certain countries in Asia and Africa. These entities purport to inform you that someone is attempting to register your domain name in another country and, unless your respond immediately, your will lose your domain name in these countries. Typically, they kindly offer to register your domain name on your behalf. Do not respond. There are no such entities. It is a scam to get your information. While it is possible for someone to register the same domain name as yours with a different suffix (ie. v., the registration entities do NOT warn you ahead of time. Moreover, registration conflicts are resolved through Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policies as well as through other applicable laws and treaties--except in China and certain countries in Asia and Africa where such laws don't apply in the first place!

Lastly, it should go without saying, any emails offering to pay you a "fee" to hold money in your account, claiming you have inherited a large sum from a deceased 4th cousin in Uganda, or seeking to wire your organization an unsolicited donation from an arts-loving patron in Uzbekistan should be deleted and ignored. Angels exist, but they do not email you from third world countries asking for wiring instructions.

As a general rule, never send any personal information in response to an unsolicited email and always verify phone numbers, email addresses, and websites.