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How the government shutdown hurts fraud victims

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By Jon Schuppe

A couple of days after Christmas, Louette Duvall was chatting with a customer outside her Sacramento, California, eyeglass shop when a security guard asked if she knew that someone was going through her car parked nearby.

The men were thieves, and by the time she realized what was happening, they’d taken off with her handbag and briefcase and everything inside: credit cards, checkbooks, business and Social Security documents, her address book and her mail, she said.

For the next few days, Duvall, 67, a widow, scrambled to freeze or close her bank accounts and alert her credit card companies as fraudulent charges appeared. Then she began thinking about how the criminals could use information about her to do further damage, like create bogus credit cards and checkbooks to buy things in her name, or file a false tax return to reap a bogus refund.

So she dialed the Federal Trade Commission, where she hoped to file a complaint and seek help on how to contain her losses.

No one picked up.

She visited the FTC’s identity theft website, identitytheft.gov, and found this message:

“Due to the government shutdown, we are unable to offer this website service at this time.”

Duvall fumed.

“It was like I can’t stop it and my government is not there to help,” she recalled.

“I have good credit,” Duvall added. “I’m vulnerable.”

Many identity theft victims are feeling the same way, as the government shutdown enters its fourth week and the FTC is among the many federal agencies to go dormant.

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