A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB: Government shutdown doesn’t slow down imposters; as watchers aren’t watching, be careful!

The recent Federal Government shutdown is impacting agencies consumers and businesses depend on. Until a resolution is announced, a number of services provided by the FTC, the SBA, and the IRS are unavailable to the public. It also allows an opportunity for scammers posing as a government agency and phish for personal information, so watch out for bogus phone calls, emails, and text messages during this time.  

The Federal Trade Commission maintains fair competition in the business marketplace, monitors ethics in business practices, and (like BBB) reports scams. The FTC also houses the Do Not Call Registry and information about how to recover from identity theft, both very popular tools used by businesses and consumers alike.

The Small Business Administration posted that the information on its website is not actively updated. If you are a small business owner or are have questions about loans, contracts or any other related questions, pertinent information will remain on the site; but pending the continuation of the shutdown, expect that such data will no longer remain current.

January typically marks the beginning of the tax filing season. According to the Internal Revenue Service’s website, people are able to start filing their taxes. However, if you have a complicated return and need to contact someone at the office, you may encounter difficulties until the shutdown is resolved. And due to the length of shutdown time, be prepared to experience refund delays. Such delays stretch the amount of time scammers are able to prey on people with fraudulent IRS claims. If possible, file your taxes sooner than later to reduce the chance of tax identity theft.

Likewise, with the temporary closure of the Do Not Call Registry and the FTC, cell users may notice in an uptick in robocalls, text messages, spoofed numbers and other unusual activity. Until the shutdown is over, experts advise not to answer any unknown phone numbers. Keep in mind that if someone really needs to get in touch with you, they’ll leave a voicemail.

If you haven’t done so already, look into blocking services through your phone provider. Also, if you check email on your cell, make sure all of your passwords have been updated to strong passphrases that include combinations of letters, numbers and symbols. And remember, the IRS will never contact taxpayers by email, text message or social media to request personal or financial information.

Continue taking a proactive approach to protecting your personal information now and throughout the year by reporting any suspicious activity to scamtracker.org.

Sandra Guile is the Public Relations Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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