Real Identity Theft Stories | Case #8: U.S. Government Shutdown Prevents Man from Reporting His Identity Stolen
This blog series is dedicated to sharing real-world stories of the most serious cases of stolen identities — and just how devastating these crimes can be on organizations, individuals, and families. This week’s recap focuses on how the U.S. government shutdown impacted victims of identity theft.
About the Identity Theft Victim
Zach Maerz, a resident of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, recently had his Personally Identifiable Information compromised. The young husband and father realized something was wrong after he was alerted that his Social Security number had been used by a fraudster to open an AT&T account in another state.
When the Shutdown “Shuts You Out”
The identity thief not only had Maerz’s Social Security number, but also his current and prior addresses, and the names of his wife and infant son. As a result, Maerz rapidly contacted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), where he discovered the agency’s mission to protect America’s consumers has been put on hold during the government shutdown.
The FTC service, identitytheft.gov, had been closed since the U.S. government shut down on December 22nd, 2018. This is the message identity theft victims saw when they tried to find government help for the identity crimes committed against them:
Due to the government shutdown, we are unable to offer this website service at this time. Information about identity theft can be found on the FTC’s website at: Identity Theft | Consumer Information
We will resume normal operations when the government is funded.
For people receiving automated emails about the deactivation of identitytheft.gov accounts, please note that this process has been suspended and accounts will not be de-activated after January 9, 2019. Questions can be directed to 877-ID THEFT when the government resumes operations.
What Should Identity Theft Victims Do?
With nowhere to turn, consumers took to Twitter to express their frustrations.
The devastating financial and emotional impact of identity theft typically escalates the longer an incident goes unreported and accounts remain open.
Here are 5 steps identity theft victims should take to help mitigate losses if the government is shut down:
- Perform a credit freeze
- Notify your financial institution(s)
- File a police report at your local police station
- Remove your information from public databases
- Sign yourself and your family members up for identity theft protection