Protecting Yourself from Fraud During the U.S. Government Shutdown
**Note: The government shutdown came to an end on January 28, 2019, after 35 days. Delays are still expected as agencies work through more than a month of backlog.
The U.S. government shutdown that started on December 22, 2018, is now the longest on record and is impacting more than 800,000 federal workers as of the time of this writing. Although the impact is clear for those government employees directly in the crosshairs, the full effect is yet to be realized for U.S. consumers.
Here are two federal agencies whose lack of funding could prove to endanger citizens’ defenses against identity crimes and fraud.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Closes
The FTC’s mission of “Protecting America’s Consumers” has been put on hold until government funding is resumed. As a result, victims of scams and identity theft will be unable to file reports and their calls for help to recover from the crime will go unanswered.
Here is a full list of FTC services that are not available while the government shutdown remains:
- National Do Not Call Registry (For consumers)
- National Do Not Call Registry (For telemarketers)
- Consumer Sentinel Network (For law enforcement)
- Complaint Assistant (For filing consumer complaints)
- IdentityTheft.gov (For consumers reporting ID theft)
- Econsumer.gov (For consumers reporting international complaints)
Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Stops Many Services
Tax-filing season is hardly the time for a government shutdown — especially in a year where new tax laws are being rolled out.
The IRS and executive office have said that tax returns will still be processed, and refunds will be sent out but, with limited funding and uncertainty, consumers should be prepared for delays. Also, with scarcer-than-usual resources, the ability of tax identity theft victims to file a report with the IRS is in limbo.
U.S. Government Shutdowns Aren’t Unusual
Since 1974, there have been 21 federal funding gaps where the deadline for Congress to approve new spending has come and gone, and thus, a “shut down” has occurred. In fact, in the 1980s there were a total of eight shutdowns over the span of the decade. The graph below shows the number of government shutdowns per decade.
Resources to Protect Yourself & Those You Care About
During the government shutdown, and even when things are fully operational, it’s best to stay vigilant and get empowered with tools and insight that can help you protect what matters most. Here are some to get you started:
- 3 Common Tax Scams to Avoid
- Your Business is a Target for Tax Scams
- 5 Tips to Protect Yourself this Tax Season
- Tax Fraud: Scammers Ramp Up Their Tactics in 2019
- New Tax Scam Impacts Tax Preparers & Consumers