Assistant Special Agent In Charge of the Criminal Investigation Branch of the IRS Tyler Hatcher is all too aware of the methods criminals use to scam Americans.
“Funds being paid out by the federal government, you’re going to have many many creative ways that criminals will try to separate you from first and foremost would be your money, and secondarily, and if they can get both of these they’re going to try, but your information," Hatcher said.
However, he said, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.
“In the past our message has been to file your income tax returns early, simply because often-times it was a race. If your information has been compromised and criminals have your name and social security number and address and date of birth they can file a tax return for you. Often-times that money gets paid out and then when you as a regular tax-payer goes to file your return, you’re finding that somebody has already filed for you," Hatcher said.
The economic stimulus roll-out just started on Friday, and Special Agent Hatcher said the worst of the scams are yet to come.
“We haven’t seen a lot of scams, really yet, so if you have questions jump onto IRS.gov," Hatcher said. "And again, if you always keep in mind that criminals are trying to separate you from your information and or your money, that kind of helps people be a little bit more savvy when they get these things. We’ll never ask you to verify your social security number, your date of birth or your address. We certainly will not ask you to send payments.”
Special Agent Hatcher said that government officials take this criminal activity seriously, and if it happens, they want to know about it.
“Our job is to prevent these types of things from happening, but if they do happen and the public knows about them, you know IRS Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s office are committed a hundred percent to investigate and prosecute these as vigorously as we can.”