4 FAQs about W-2 business email compromise attacks during tax season

Did you know: Tax season is the most popular time of the year for W-2 related cyber attacks. Phishing emails will often request employees to provide W-2s by return email. Continue reading this blog post for four FAQs about W-2 business email compromise attacks.


The most likely cyber attack a company will face will come in the form of an email. One of the most common forms of email attack is the business email compromise (BEC), and the most popular time of the year for the W-2 version of BEC is right now — tax season.

A BEC attack involves attackers sending emails disguised as coming from high-level executives within a company, such as the CEO, to lower level personnel. During tax season, the spoof email will often request that W-2s for employees be provided by return email.

While the email looks identical to the executive’s email, it is coming from — and then returned to — the criminal, not the executive, along with the W-2s and the personal information associated with the documents.

If an employee falls for the scam, the company now has experienced a serious data breach and must comply with certain legal requirements. Worse yet, the company’s employees’ sensitive personal information has been given to the attackers and they have this problem to worry about instead of performing their job. The disruption is substantial in their personal lives and for the company’s operations.

How do attackers use W-2 information?

In most cases, once the attackers have that W-2 information, they use it to attempt to file fraudulent tax returns for those employees and have their tax refunds sent to them instead of the employee. They also use it for traditional identity theft.

The attackers act very quickly once the information is obtained. In some cases, they have begun to fraudulently use the information on the same day they obtained the W-2 information from the company. Time is truly of the essence in responding to these attacks and legal assistance is necessary for properly responding to these data breach events.

Why do so many attacks happen during tax season?

Law enforcement officers and cybersecurity professionals report a drastic increase in these types of attacks during the beginning of each year because of tax season. This is consistent with what is seen in helping companies with these cases in past years, as well. The reason this type of attack is so common during tax season is because of the tax-related fraud aspect of this type of attack. That is, the attackers monetize their attacks by using the fraudulently obtained information to file fraudulent tax returns and obtain refunds from innocent victims.

And the sooner they can do this, the better their chances are of getting the refund before the taxpayer files and receives their tax refund.

If a company has not yet been targeted, it is likely that it will be very soon so it is important to be prepared.

What can you do to protect your company?

Educating employees is critical because they will be the ones who receive the emails from the attackers.

  • Make them aware of this issue by sharing the information in this article with them so that they understand the threat, how it works and how it could affect them personally.
  • Train them by having appropriate personnel discuss this threat with them and help them understand that they should be very suspicious of any requests to email out anything of this nature (or make payments, such as with the very similar wire transfer version of the BEC).

Have appropriate internal controls in place to protect against these types of attacks. These controls can include:

  • Limit who has access to your company’s W-2s and other sensitive information as well as who has the authority to submit or approve wire payments.
  • Have established procedures in place for sending W-2 information or other sensitive information as well as for submitting or approving wire payments so that dual approvals are required for these activities.
  • Require employees to use an alternative means of confirming the identity of the person making the request. If the request is by email, the employee should talk to the requestor in-person or call and speak to the requestor using a known telephone number to get verbal confirmation. If the request is by telephone or fax (many times they are), then use email to confirm by using an email address known to be correct to confirm with the purported requestor. Never reply to one of these emails or call using a telephone number that is provided in one of these emails, faxes, or telephone calls.

What to do if your company is hit by an attack

  • Immediately contact experienced legal counsel who understands how to guide a company through these incidents and, ideally, has appropriate contacts with law enforcement and the IRS to assist in reporting this incident quickly.
  • Report the incident to the FBI or Secret Service and appropriate IRS investigators so that the IRS can implement appropriate procedures to protect the employees whose information was exposed in the W-2s.
  • Prepare appropriate notifications to the people whose information was exposed and comply with all legal and regulatory reporting requirements. This should be a part of an existing incident response plan. Companies should have such a procedure in place to be better prepared if and when a security breach occurs.
  • Inform employees that the IRS will never contact them directly, for the first time, via email, telephone, text message, social media or any way other than through a written “snail mail” letter.

SOURCE: Tuma, S. (19 February 2019) "4 FAQs about W-2 business email compromise attacks during tax season" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2019/02/19/4-faqs-about-w-2-business-email-compromise-attacks-during-tax-season/


Hot tips for winter driving

Wintry conditions can make it hard for drivers to see and even harder to control the vehicle, making driving nerve-wracking even for the best drivers. Continue reading this blog post from UBA for tips on winter driving.


Driving in wintry conditions can be nerve-wracking even for the best drivers. Snow, fog,  and black ice can make it hard to see and even harder to control your vehicle. But if you follow some basic tips, you’ll be more likely to keep your cool and get to your destination without mishap.

Before you hit the road

First things first: Make sure your vehicle is in tip-top condition. And don’t wait till the last minute to do this, in case mechanics find issues that need repairs or need to order in parts. Check the battery, lights, cooling system, tires, windshield wipers and defrosters to make sure everything’s working correctly.Be ready for possible emergencies. Carry a shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, jumper cables, emergency flares or markers, blankets, cell phone charger, snacks and water.

Plan your route carefully, keeping weather and construction in mind. If you’re using GPS, make sure you input your destination before you leave. And let someone know your route and what time you expect to arrive.

Safety strategies

  • Be well-rested before you go.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half-full.
  • Don’t use cruise control when it’s slippery due to snow, ice or rain.
  • Drive slowly according to road conditions and traffic. Keep a longer following distance between you and the car ahead of you (a normal distance is three to four seconds; increase this to eight to ten).
  • If you’re stuck in the snow, stay with your vehicle. Don’t try to walk in search of help. Tie a bright piece of loth to the antenna or hang a piece of cloth from the closed window to try to attract attention. It’s OK to keep the dome light on. It won’t wear down your battery and will make your car more visible. Run the heater for short periods till the car is warm, and then turn it off to save gas. Always make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of sow or ice!
  • Accelerate slowly. Steer in the direction of a skid. Brake gradually with steady pressure. (If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, you might need to pump the brake pedal.)
  • Stay out of the way of snow plows. Their field of vision is limited.

And always…

Always use your seat belt and make sure children are in car seats that are installed correctly. Don’t text and drive and avoid other distractions whenever possible. And never, ever drink and drive.

If playing it safe means arriving at Grandma’s a little late, so be it. Arriving safe, sound and healthy is what’s important.

 

Sources:

AAA Minneapolis. Drive to Survive this Winter Season. https://minneapolis.aaa.com/news/drive-survive-winter-season.   Accessed 9/11/18

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Winter driving tips.

https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/winter-driving-tips.pdf   Accessed 9/11/18

American Automobile Association. Winter driving tips.

https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.W5gPtjbfPtQ   Accessed 9/11/18

SOURCE: Olson, B. (7 March 2019) "Hot tips for winter driving" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/hot-tips-for-winter-driving


Safety Focused Video - March 2019

This month’s Safety Focused video goes over eye safety in the workplace and tips for safe spring-cleaning.

Every day, more than 2,000 people injure their eyes at work. More than 90 percent of these injuries could be avoided.

Monthly safety tips from


Insurance Commission Urges Wisconsinites to Evaluate Flood Insurance Needs Before the Snow Melts

Insurance Commission Urges Wisconsinites to Evaluate Flood Insurance Needs Before the Snow Melts

Madison, Wis. — The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) is urging residents to evaluate their flood insurance coverage now as the National Weather Service predicts temperatures across Wisconsin will rise later this week. With rising temperatures comes the possibility of snowmelt-related flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)1 noted late last month that Wisconsin’s flood risk is above normal to well-above normal throughout March and April.

“I think it’s fair to say that most Wisconsinites are ready for winter to be over,” said Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable. “But while we’re waiting for temperatures to rise, home and business owners should review their insurance policies to make sure they have appropriate coverage.

“If you purchase flood insurance, the policy does not go into effect for 30 days,”2 explains Afable. “Consider flood insurance now as an important protection against this type of peril.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is closely monitoring the Fox River between Wrightstown and DePere, the Wolf River, and the Menominee River for ice jams and flooding3 , while the National Weather Service in La Crosse is warning residents along the Mississippi River and its tributaries of an above-normal flood risk through May due to runoff from snowpack and deeply frozen ground.4 River ice jams occur when ice breaks up quickly in thawing temperatures and large, flowing ice chunks collect and create a dam, triggering area floods.

Not only will mountains of snow across the state melt into inches of water, saturated soil in many areas from late summer/early fall flooding leaves nowhere for that water to go.5

Public works departments are asking residents to help by clearing snow and ice from storm drains and grates. Homeowners should remove snow from the roof using a roof rake or push broom, make sure vents around the home are not covered by snow, and check that their sump pump is working properly. Clearing snow piles away from the home or building can also help prevent water seepage through the foundation.

Most homeowner’s policies do not cover flooding or seepage through the foundation. A separate flood insurance policy sold through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and managed by FEMA is necessary for this coverage. Visit https://www.floodsmart.gov/ to learn more about flood insurance.

Damage from sewer backup or sump pump overflow is not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance or flood insurance. The purchase of a special homeowner’s policy endorsement is required for this type of coverage. Contact your insurance agent to find out more about special endorsements and riders for expanded coverage.

  • Floods are the nation’s most common natural disaster.6
  • Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home.
  • More than 20 percent of flood insurance claims come from outside high-risk areas.7
  • Generally, water coming from the top down, such as burst fire sprinklers and ice dam seepage behind drywall, is covered by standard homeowner’s policies. Water coming from the bottom up, such as foundation seepage from snowmelts, is not.8

Created by the Legislature in 1870, Wisconsin’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) was vested with broad powers to ensure that the insurance industry responsibly and adequately met the insurance needs of Wisconsin citizens. Today, OCI’s mission is to lead the way in informing and protecting the public and responding to its insurance needs.

For more information contact Olivia Hwang, Director of Public Affairs, (608) 267-9460 or olivia.hwang@wisconsin.gov

###

SOURCE: Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (5 March 2019) “Insurance Commission Urges Wisconsinites to Evaluate Flood Insurance Needs Before the Snow Melts” (Press Release). Retrieved from https://oci.wi.gov/Pages/PressReleases/20190305PRSnowmelt.aspx


Operating a drone? Check your coverage

Is operating a drone a part of your job description? If so, check your insurance coverage to determine whether an endorsement to an existing policy or a specialty policy is required to cover your drone-related activities. Read this blog post to learn more.


A happy couple was enjoying their wedding with their family and friends when disaster struck. The couple hired a wedding photographer to record the wedding and reception. In the course of performing his services at the wedding, the photographer used a drone to take pictures and record video. The drone accidentally hit one of the wedding guests, causing the guest to lose her eye.

A claim was made against the wedding photographer’s commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy. However, the insurance company denied the claim asserting that the claim was excluded under the aircraft exclusion provision in the policy.

Eventually, the injured wedding guest filed suit against the photographer asserting negligence, and the photographer sought a defense under his CGL policy. The insurance company initially provided a defense under a reservation of rights, but then filed a declaratory judgment action asking the court to declare that the insurance company was not liable under the policy and that it had no obligation to provide a defense to its insured for the injury caused by the drone.

The court in Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co. v. Hollycal Prod., Inc., noted that the CGL policy specifically excluded any bodily injury arising out of the use of an “aircraft” operated by an insured. While the policy did not define the term “aircraft,” the court held that the word was unambiguous and its ordinary meaning, as defined by Merriam–Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is “a vehicle (such as an airplane or balloon) for traveling through the air.”

The court held that the definition of aircraft included a drone. Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurance company finding that the policy did not cover the claim and that there was no duty to defend the claim. The court even awarded the insurance company the costs of defense it incurred while providing a defense under its reservation of rights.

Drone use is steadily increasing commercially with virtually limitless applications and possibilities for causing personal injury or property damage. However, many CGL policies may exclude coverage under the aircraft exclusion.

Accordingly, if you are using a drone or contract the use of drone services, make sure you contact your insurance carrier about coverage and determine whether an endorsement to an existing policy or a specialty policy is required to cover your drone-related activities.

SOURCE: Stover, M. (19 February 2019) "Operating a drone? Check your coverage" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/02/19/operating-a-drone-check-your-coverage/


6 tips to protect your vehicle from winter's potholes

When the weather conditions are unfavorable, the best option when it comes to driving is to not drive at all. Read this blog post for six tips on how to protect your vehicle from winter potholes.


When it comes to driving in unfavorable weather conditions, the best option is to not drive at all. However, many drivers don’t have much say in the matter either because of work, an emergency or just a desire to get home before conditions get much worse.

Around the U.S., ice, freezing rain and fluctuating winter temperatures can leave roadways littered with potholes, causing vehicle damage and costly repairs for motorists, says AAA. In some cases, the company added, the impact of poor road conditions can leave a vehicle owner with repair bills ranging from under $250 to more than $1,000 depending on the extent of the damage, the make of the vehicle and the make of the tires.

Potholes tend to form when moisture collects in small holes and cracks in the road surface. As temperatures rise and fall — as they have this winter — the moisture expands and contracts, ultimately resulting in broken up pavement which is then continually impacted by the weight of passing cars.

Cracks in the road

According to a AAA study on pothole damage:

  • Americans spend $3 billion per year on average to repair pothole-related damages to their vehicles.
  • American drivers paid an average of $300 each to repair pothole-related damages to their vehicles in 2017, according to AAA estimates.

The impact of poor road conditions can leave a vehicle owner with repair bills ranging from under $250 to more than $1,000 depending on the extent of the damage, the make of the vehicle and the make of the tires. (Photo: AAA)

Blown tires, dented rims, damaged wheels, dislodged wheel weights, displaced struts, dislocated shock absorbers and damaged exhaust systems are all costly common automotive issues. Other signs include misaligned steering systems and ruptured ball joints.

“Driving over potholes formed by weather extremes and heavy traffic can damage a tire’s internal steel belts and force it ‘to go out of round.’ This negatively impacts your ability to drive comfortably and safely,” Jed Bowles, AAA Blue Grass fleet manager, said in a press release. “Running into a pothole can lead to irregular tire wear and tear, vehicle vibration and imbalance, wobbling and loss of control.”

With this in mind, here are six tips that will help aid motorists in protecting their vehicles from pothole damage, courtesy of AAA.

  1. AAA suggests making sure tires have enough tread and are properly inflated. To check the tread depth, insert a quarter into the tread groove with Washington's head upside down. The tread should cover part of Washington's head. If it doesn't, it's time to start shopping for new tires. When checking tire pressures, refer to the owner's manual to ensure they are inflated to the manufacturer's recommended levels.
  2. Keep an eye out for potholes when driving. Stay focused on the road ahead and don't get distracted. If you need to swerve to avoid a pothole, make sure to check surrounding traffic to avoid causing a collision or endangering nearby pedestrians or cyclists.
  3. If a pothole cannot be avoided, reduce speed, and check the rearview mirror before any abrupt braking, says AAA. Hitting a pothole at higher speeds increases the likelihood of damage to tires, wheels and suspension components.
  4. A puddle of water can disguise a deep pothole. Use care when driving through puddles and treat them as though they may be hiding potholes.
  5. Hitting a pothole can knock a vehicle's wheels out of alignment and affect the steering, says AAA. If a vehicle pulls to the left or right, have the wheel alignment checked by a qualified technician.
  6. Any new or unusual noises or vibrations that appear after hitting a pothole should be inspected immediately by a certified technician. A hard pothole impact can dislodge wheel weights, damage a tire or wheel, and bend or even break suspension components, says AAA.

SOURCE: Jacob, D. (12 February 2019) "6 tips to protect your vehicle from winter's potholes" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/02/12/6-tips-to-protect-your-vehicle-from-winters-potholes/