New Consumer Alert Offers Tips for Protecting Your Finances from Year 2000 Scam Artists

Tips for Consumers

In response to reports that con artists are preying on consumer fears about the Year 2000 computer bug and its potential impact on financial services, the Federal Trade Commission in cooperation with the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council and the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion today released "Y2K? Y 2 Care: Protecting Your Finances from Year 2000 Scam Artists." This consumer alert is one in a series of alerts the FTC has prepared to inform consumers and industry about Y2K issues. In addition to the alerts, consumers can call a free hotline - 1-888-USA-4-Y2K-- for information about Y2K topics.

The full text of the consumer alert follows:

Y2K? Y 2 Care: Protecting Your Finances from Year 2000 Scam Artists

"I got a call from a man who said he represented my bank. He said they're having trouble preparing for the Year 2000 and that I need to transfer my money to a special account until the bank can comply with the Year 2000 requirements. I hung up when he asked me for personal information. Did I do the right thing?"

"I got a call from a woman who said she needed my credit card number to verify that the card would work after January 1, 2000. Is this a scam?"

Yes. The confusion surrounding Y2K provides one more opportunity for scam artists to take advantage of consumers.

Protect Yourself

  • Never give out personal information -- including your bank account or credit card numbers -- over the phone or online unless you're familiar with the business and have initiated the contact. Scam artists can use your personal information to commit fraud against you.
  • Be on the alert for unauthorized charges to your credit card. If you haven't authorized a charge, don't pay it - dispute it. Follow your credit card issuer's procedures for disputing a charge.
  • If you notice unauthorized debits to your checking or savings account, contact your financial institution immediately.

The Y2K problem...the Y2K glitch...the millennium bug. Whatever you call it, it's the inability of some computers and computerized systems to correctly recognize dates after 1999. Many products have microchips that have been programmed to process only the last two digits of a year on the assumption that the first two would be 1 and 9. As a result, 98 is read as 1998, and 00 could be read as 1900 instead of 2000.

Financial institutions are taking steps to ensure their computer systems are ready to process transactions properly as of January 1, 2000. In fact, they are required to be Y2K compliant before the century date change. Federal regulators have a comprehensive Y2K program underway that includes examination of federally insured depository institutions, including banks, thrifts and credit unions. And the Federal Reserve has arranged for printing additional currency in 1999 so that extra cash is available to bank customers.

Have questions? Call your financial institution.

  • Ask your financial service provider about its plans to deal with Y2K. If you're not comfortable with the response, consider doing business elsewhere.
  • Ask your provider about contingency plans for system failures.
  • If you don't normally maintain financial records, you may want to consider doing so in preparation for the Year 2000. That way you'll have proof if something happens to the computerized records. At a minimum, keep a six-month paper trail -- three months before and after the date change -- on significant transactions, such as mortgages, stocks and insurance.
  • Make sure your deposit receipts and periodic statements are accurate. Report discrepancies to your institution.
  • Keep canceled checks, bank statements and check registers as proof of payment for at least several months before and after the date change. If you bank by computer, download your transaction records and store them on a backup disk. You also may want to print out downloaded records in case backup disks are contaminated with Y2K problems.
  • Keep credit card receipts for purchases and cash advances made on or around January 1, 2000. Compare them against your billing statements. Report discrepancies to your card issuer.

For More Information

Many public and private sector financial organizations provide Y2K information through their Web sites and consumer call centers. Information also is available from 1-888-USA-4-Y2K (toll-free) or the U.S. Consumer Gateway at www.consumer.gov.

National Banks
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Customer Assistance Group
3701 McKinney Street
Suite 3710
Houston, TX 77010
(800) 613-6743

State Member Banks of the Federal Reserve System
Consumer and Community Affairs
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
20th & Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20551
(202) 452-3693

Non-Member Federally Insured Banks
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Compliance and Consumer Affairs
550 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20429
(800) 934-3342

State and Federally Chartered Savings Associations
Office of Thrift Supervision
Consumer Affairs Office
1700 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20552
(800) 842-6929

Federal Credit Unions
National Credit Union Administration
1775 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 518-6330

Other types of financial service providers (finance and leasing companies/retailers/credit bureaus):

Consumer Response Center
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20580
(202) FTC-HELP (382-4357)
TDD: (202) 326-2502

Copies of the all the Y2K Y 2 Care consumer and business alerts and other Y2K information are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2180