How to Spot a Fake W-2

How to Spot a Fake W-2
February 16, 2023
5 min read
February 16, 2023
6 min read

Each year, millions of taxpayers receive a W-2 form from their employers as proof of their income. Unfortunately, not all of these forms are accurate or even real. It is essential to know how to spot a fake W-2 to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft or tax fraud. 

Knowing the elements that make a fake W-2 can help you stay safe and ensure that your taxes are filed accurately and on time. Here, we will discuss the typical tell-tale signs of a fake W-2, how to take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your finances, and spotting fake pay stubs and faking pay stubs.

How does a Form W-2 looks like

Every year, companies are required to give their staff members a Form W-2. It is used to document the wages, gratuities, and other payments made to employees and the taxes deducted from their pay. Additionally, it is a vital record that employees need to file their taxes. Typically, a Form W-2 has four components. 

The first part of the form includes the employee's information, which could be the employer's name, address, and employer identification number (EIN).  In the same section, you can also find the employee's name, address, and Social Security number (SSN). And the second part includes their wage and salary information. 

The third part shows the total amount of federal income and Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from their paychecks during the year. The fourth part of the form is a summary of the information from the first three parts. It shows the employee how much they earn and how much they pay in taxes each year.

How to spot a fake w-2 form

What to Look for in a Fake W2 Form

  • On the W2 form paperwork, make sure an employer identification number (EIN) is on it.
  • Check that the application information is the correct version.
  • Verify the accuracy of all the data by comparing it to the details it refers to
  • Confirm that the form contains the correct employer name and address.
  • Confirm that the employer's name and contact details are valid.
  • Check that the document has an accurate statement from the employer.
  • Verify that the proper withholding amounts are listed.
  • Ensure the form has the proper wages, tips, and other compensation.
  • Check that the document has the accurate dates for the pay period.

How to Verify W-2 Information

To verify W-2 information, employers must first request a copy of Form W-2 from the employee or the IRS. Once obtained, employers should compare the information on the W-2 form to the information provided by the employee or on other records, such as pay stubs or tax returns. Employers should also compare the W-2 information to the information in the employer's payroll system. 

If there are discrepancies between the W-2 form and other documents, the employer should contact the employee to discuss the differences and make any necessary corrections. If the employer can't figure out how to fix the problems, he or she may choose to send the IRS a Form W-2C, Correction of Wage and Tax Statement. The W-2C form reports correct wage and tax information to the IRS.

How to Spot W-2 Email Fraud

Suppose you want to spot W-2 email fraud; there are a few key things to look for. 

First, you should read the email carefully to see if there are any grammar or spelling mistakes that seem odd. Most legitimate emails from companies will be free of such mistakes. Also, look for any references to "urgent" or "immediate" action, as this is a common way for scammers to get you to act.

Another critical indicator of email fraud is if the sender's email address doesn't match the company's domain. Legitimate emails will always come from the official domain name of the company. If the sender's email address is personal, this is a major red flag, and you should definitely not trust the sender.

Common types of Form W-2 scams

  • Phishing emails and text messages
  • Fake websites and emails claiming to provide W-2 information
  • Social engineering attacks aimed at stealing W-2 data
  • Malware and ransomware attacks targeting W-2 data
  • Compromised employee computers and networks
  • Unauthorized access to payroll systems

What Happens When You Get Caught With a Fake W-2 Form?

If you do end up getting caught with fake check stubs, the consequences can vary depending on the situation. Most of the time, if the IRS finds out that you used a fake W-2 form to file your taxes or get financial help, like a loan, you could face harsh penalties. Depending on how serious the situation is, you may have to pay a high fine or be prosecuted.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you fake w2?

Can you fake a W2?  Yes, you can. But should you? The answer is no. Depending on the situation, you could be charged with a crime like fraud or forgery, which could lead to fines and time in jail.

The IRS may also charge civil penalties, such as back taxes, interest, and other fees. By filing a fake tax return, you risk having to repay any money received. And the government might not give you some benefits, like student loans and other ways to get money. 

Can you Generate a Fake W2 Form?

Yes, it is possible to generate a fake W2 form. Several online services and software programs can help create an artificial W2 form. But it is against the law in the United States to use these services or programs to make a fake W2 form, and doing so could lead to serious consequences.

Do people create fake W2s and submit them to the IRS often?

Unfortunately, people sometimes create fake W2 forms and submit them to the IRS. And this is a form of tax fraud, which can have severe consequences for those caught engaging in it. Even though it's hard to say exactly how often this happens, the IRS has charged people who made and sent in fake W2 forms.

Is it illegal to make a fake w2?

While there are many reasons for making fake pay stubs, submitting a phony pay stub or W2 to the IRS is illegal, which can result in significant penalties. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), submitting false or fraudulent documents to evade or underreport taxes is a serious criminal offense. In addition to being subject to criminal prosecution, people who present a fake W2 to the IRS face potential civil fraud penalties, possible fines, and jail time.

Is it illegal to submit a fake w2 to an employer?

Yes, it is illegal. It's against the law to give an employer a false W2 form. And this may qualify as identity theft or fraud in the eyes of the law, which could result in prosecution. Also, employers must give the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) accurate information about how much employees earn and how much tax is taken out. So providing a false W2 would cause the employer to make false statements to the IRS and could be subject to civil penalties.