Fox 16 Investigates: W2 Information Being Stolen, Sold on the Dark Web

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - It may be past tax time, but that doesn't mean the stress is over... Tonight, Fox16 Investigates brings you an important consumer alert: Thieves are stealing W2 information and selling it on the Dark Web.
An expert takes us into the criminal underground to see what's for sale, and it's frightening because the risk is so real.
Brigham Gonzalez recently changed jobs and moved on his own. Everything was great, until he woke up to a shocking call from his sister.
"She had received a letter from my previous employer stating that all of their W2 [information] had been stolen," Gonzalez said.
He called the company, which verified the news.
"Somebody pretending to be upper level management just kind of bluffed their way into getting one of the employees to fax over all of the W2s," Gonzalez said.
His case is not an isolated incident.
Caleb Barlow, a security expert for IBM, says sometimes it's phone calls, sometimes email scams, but W2s are being stolen and sold on the part of the internet hidden from search engines -- called the Dark Web. 
"One of the first things that we have to recognize when we go into the Dark Web is, it's kind of a, 'Don't do this at home,'" Barlow said.
Barlow took us into the cyber underground to marketplaces where vendors -- complete with approval ratings -- are selling stolen 2016 W2s in bulk for around $35-40.
"Now, here's an example of a site that's selling W2 tax forms along with a date of birth and you notice it says AGI. Now, an AGI stands for adjusted gross income," Barlow explained.
In addition to filing a fraudulent tax return on your behalf, the documents can be used to establish credit, or outright steal your identity.
The IRS tells us, so far, it has stopped 1.4 million confirmed identity theft tax returns, totaling $8 billion.
"Now, of course, the best protection is, ultimately, prevention," Barlow said.
If your information is compromised:
  • Notify the Federal Trade Commission along with credit reporting bureaus
  • Call your financial institutions
  • Fill out all appropriate IRS forms
As it turned out, no one filed a fraudulent tax return on Gonzalez, which made him breathe easier in the short term.
"Long term, I know that all of my information's still out there and anybody could decide to use it against me," Gonzalez said.
To follow this story and all of Marci Manley's coverage, click here for Facebook or here for Twitter
Fox16 Investigates is committed to uncovering truth and problems people face across Arkansas. If you have a story that needs to be investigated, call Investigative Reporter Marci Manley on the Investigations Tipline at (501) 340-4448 or email at

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