A SWAT AT Y2K SCAM ARTISTS
No doubt some unscrupulous folks will use the pandemonium generated by Y2K fears as an opportunity to exploit unsuspecting consumers. Products are popping up on TV commercials and in e-mails claiming to provide solutions to year 2000 issues or prevent Y2K problems.
Closely examine these sales pitches, which may have been devised to sell you unnecessary, overpriced services or been concocted to get your credit card information or bank
account number. To protect yourself from these fradulent Y2K offers and other scams, follow these guidelines:
- Don’t give your personal information out over the telephone, unless you’re familiar with the business. Keep your credit card, bank account and Social Security numbers under wraps. Scam artists could use this information to commit fraud.
- Review your credit card statements and report all unauthorized charges. If you don’t recall authorizing a particular charge on your account, dispute it with your credit card company.
- Look for discrepancies on your checking or savings account statements. If you find an unauthorized debit, report it immediately to your financial institution.
- Request a report on Y2K readiness from any public company that you own shares in.
- Ask questions. Contact the firms you’re doing business with and find out whether they are Y2K compliant.
- Seek legal recourse. If the Y2K bug causes major havoc in your life, you can sue the offender. But be aware that the government is trying to head off lawsuits well before they emerge. Already Congress is proposing legislation to limit the amount of money that can be claimed in damage awards. It’s also pushing for quick, painless settlements.
- Educate yourself. Learn all you can about the Y2K issue and what you can do to protect yourself. Also, pay special attention to the mailings you receive from banks and other firms informing you about their year 2000 plans. They often contain helpful suggestions for consumers.
- Do your research. If a company guarantees to fix a Y2K glitch, check with an independent expert or the manufacturer of the product that supposedly requires fixing before you hand over any cash to get it up to snuff .
Additional reporting by Terri Guess
What occurs on January 1, 2000, could be the least of our worries, advises Bruce Webster, co-founder/co-chair of the Washington, D.C., Year 2000 Group. He recommends consumers look at the possible long-term effects of the millennium bug, since the full impact could come days, weeks or months after January 1. Depending upon how severe any problems are, they could result in a recession. He lists five factors that could contribute to a contraction of the economy.
- Increases in oil prices. The U.S. receives 50% of its oil from foreign countries. Unfortunately, most of them are behind in their Y2K upgrades. A decrease in oil production would tighten the supply and could result in higher oil prices. Such an event would have a ripple effect throughout the economy, since so many products and services rely on oil as a resource.
- More instability in international markets. The global economy has been weak for the past