MANHATTAN (PIX11) — A warning about a common tax scam to watch out for this time of year as you await your W-2s. Criminals steal your identity, or your child’s identity, and file for your tax refund or earned income tax credit before you have a chance to.

PIX11’s Eileen Lehpamer spoke with Thomas Fattorusso, the Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation New York about a recent multi-million dollar scheme that is still making its way through the Federal Courts. Nine defendants were convicted in connection with the scam that lasted for nine years. One is still awaiting sentencing.

Agent Fattorusso says the scheme’s leader, Ariel Jimenez ran a tax prep business in the Bronx and sold thousands of children’s names and social security numbers to people who would then claim the children as dependents on their tax returns and cash in on the tax credits. The parents would then get a letter from the IRS stating they could not get the credit. It could take months for them to prove they were the ones entitled to the money.

According to court documents, Jimenez got the children’s social security numbers from a fraud investigator who worked in the New York City Human Resources Administration.

Agent Fattorusso tells PIX11 that this kind of scam where people’s identities are stolen is “common, it’s common enough where IRS Criminal investigations, C-I, look at this every year. Any of us could be victims, our identities are out in the world.”

The IRS C-I New York reminds you to keep your personal information as private as possible and file as soon as you are ready to give criminals less time to do it. Fattorusso says “I think as a general rule, it’s always good to file early, you can get your returns into the IRS and if you’re due a refund, you get a refund.”