NORTH RIDGEVILLE, Ohio - North Ridgeville police report nearly 200 employees with Beckett Air have been victimized by a W-2 scam that has hit a growing number of Northeast Ohio businesses, cities and non-profit organizations.
Police told News 5 emails were sent to a Beckett Air employee on Feb. 13 and Feb. 20.
Police said the con artist sending the emails was posing as the company CEO and asked that all employee W-2 tax information be sent to his attention.
Police said more than a half-dozen fraudulent tax returns have now been filed using the tax information obtained in the scam.
Cleveland Better Business Bureau President Sue McConnell told News 5 company employees victimized by the W-2 scam need to report the incident as soon as possible.
"You need to contact the Federal Trade Commission and file the proper paperwork to file an identity theft report," said McConnell.
"Be very vigilant about anything - bank accounts and credit card statements."
The City of Twinsburg fell victim to the same scam just two weeks ago.
Twinsburg Mayor Ted Yates said the tax information of 500 employees and vendors was turned over to a con artist who was posing as Yates in an email.
Yates said employee education is critical, and victims should file tax returns as soon as possible.
"File that tax returns as quickly as you can," said Yates.
"We've learned through hundreds of phone calls with the IRS and through meetings that as soon as you file electronically, it stops someone else from doing that."
"I just think that it's real important that you educate employees so that so that they don't respond to some fraudulent email."
Meanwhile, Beckett Air responded to our story with the following statement:
"Last week Beckett Air became a victim of a phishing e-mail scam. This phishing variation is known as “spoofing” according to the IRS. We have learned that the objective of this scam is to obtain W-2 information which is then used to file false income tax returns.
Once we realized the fraudulent request had resulted in information being provided, our team took immediate actions to ensure the protection our employees. The local police department was contacted, as well as the FBI Cyber Division and special investigators for the IRS.
Beckett Air secured the services of an identity theft organization, at the company’s expense, which specializes in protecting individuals whose personal information is compromised by this type of scam. Every employee now has direct access to these services. Also, we’ve been in regular contact with our employees to provide all the resources necessary to protect their identities and financial wellbeing.
We greatly appreciate the role the state of Ohio and the IRS have played in helping flag our tax returns in order to minimize impact. This is a widespread scheme for which many companies have regrettably fallen victim. We encourage all businesses to review the IRS warning dated January 25, 2017 explaining the approach taken by the cyber criminals.
Beckett Air has put corrective actions in place which are designed to reduce the vulnerability to this type of scheme. Protecting our employees is our top priority, and we will continue to pursue solutions that will minimize the impact of this scam on the Beckett Air team."
The FBI has now been called in to help with the on-going investigation.