As the old saying goes, "problems" roll downhill, and at the bottom of The Hill's federal shutdown are consumers. Numerous governmental entities, products, and services that protect consumer interests have been shuttered. None have mentioned any date of reopening soon, as the federal government shutdown now reaches the longest in U.S. history.
FTC Shuts Down Two of Its Sites, Online Complaint Form
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that several sites it operates will be out of service during the shutdown, including donotcall.gov, which is the website for the National Do Not Call registry. On the website, there is merely a message that states, "Due to the government shutdown, we are unable to offer this website service at this time." Telemarketers can't update their list with new consumers wishing to be left alone, and perhaps more importantly, no one is enforcing robocallers.
Savvy Identity Thieves May See This as Open Season
In addition, the FTC has also shut down identitytheft.gov, where victims can report fraudulent activity, and suspended deactivation of identitytheft.gov accounts. Though this may seem inconsequential to most, when you need it, you really need it!
Just ask Louette Duvall, who had her car broken into near her Sacramento eyeglass shop. Duvall had her handbag and briefcase stolen, which included credit cards, checkbooks, business and Social Security documents, as well as her address book and mail. She did what anyone would do -- scramble to close down as many credit cards and bank accounts as she could. However, fraudulent charges kept appearing, and she feared the worst. So she called the FTC to file a complaint and to get advice on how best to proceed. And no one picked up the phone. So she went to the website, and saw the error message that said the service was shut down. She is on her own until the shutdown ends, and feels rather unsafe and unprotected.
If you or someone you love is experiencing identity theft, especially during the shutdown, call a consumer protection attorney. A legal expert can advise you which steps to take immediately in order to best protect your credit, and avoid as many pitfalls as possible, and hopefully to prevent this from snowballing for years to come.