Louette Duvall, the owner of an eyeglass shop in Sacramento, was talking to a customer a couple of days after Christmas. A security guard rushed over and asked if she was aware that someone was going through her car, which was parked nearby. Duvall wasn’t. She was getting robbed.
By the time she got to the car, the thieves had taken her briefcase and purse, including her credit cards, business documents, Social Security information, checkbooks, an address book, and some of her mail. Everything someone might need to steal her identity.
note: There’s seldom,if ever, a reason to carry a Social Security card on you. And in 2019, you shouldn’t need to bring a checkbook or address book either.
It took several days for Duvall to freeze her accounts and warn the bank and credit card companies about potential fraudulent charges. She was aware that the thieves could also open new accounts in her name, or even file a fake tax return.
Second side note; Search “IRS form 14039”, download and fill it out, send it into the IRS, and tax-related identity theft becomes a relative non-issue.
So, Duvall turned to the Federal Trade Commission for help, but when she tried to get in touch, no one answered. Why? Because of the government shutdown. Not only are some 420,000 people going without pay, but her own government was unable to assist with her imminent identity theft crisis.
Duvall is not the only one in this situation. There are many identity theft victims who are feeling lost as the shutdown drags on. Typically, the FTC gets thousands of identity theft complaints each week, and right now, with websites down and no one manning the phones, it’s impossible for people to get the help they need.
Identity theft services are not the only thing the FTC manages. It also controls the Do Not Call Registry and the Consumer Sentinel Network, which aides law enforcement officers in finding identity fraud.
While the FTC does not intervene directly for the victim, it does offer advice on handling issues and helps them file complaints. This is especially important in identity theft cases, as the faster a victim can file a complaint, the easier it is to fix the damages. Most people have no idea what to do when these situations occur, so they rely on the FTC’s assistance. Until the government reopens, however, they’ll have to go it alone.
There have been some organizations that have stepped up to help. One is the Identity Theft Resource Center, which I’m on the Board of Directors. You can also get help through state and local agencies, including your state’s Attorney General. Utilize online resources and know that, for now, you’re government can’t help.