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Crooks prey or Y2K fear

Champagne corks and good wishes are not the only byproducts of the dawn of the new millennium.

Thursday, October 21, 1999

Champagne corks and good wishes are not the only byproducts of the dawn of the new millennium. Crooks and scams are already tarnishing the new year.

Because no one has ever experienced a millennium shift, most people do not know what to expect when the clock strikes midnight Dec. 31, 1999.

And this type of uncertainty opens the doors to unscrupulous thieves and con men, said Ed Mahle, Desco Federal Credit Union administrative vice president.

"The potential for scams is there," Mahle said. "It’s an opportunity for people who are inclined to do those sorts of things. Y2K is something that comes once every 1,000 years. There’s a lot of speculation. As a result some people feel there might be a problem because of this, and that’s what prompts scams like this. It’s an opportunity."

An Ironton Desco client was approached recently concerning a Y2K scam, Mahle said.

The person called the client and asked for her account number, Social Security number and routing transit number.

The con artist said he needed the information so that the client’s money could be transferred to a "Y2K Safe Fund."

Luckily, the woman, a senior citizen, did not give away the information, and contacted the credit union immediately, Mahle said.

"If they are asking for information that would be considered information they shouldn’t give over the telephone – account number, Social Security number, any personal information – it might be a scam," Mahle said. "If a person would call us and ask for their account information, we would ask for that information to verify that person is who they claim to be. But there is no reason we would have to ask those kinds of questions if we were the ones calling."

The typical banking scam involves the suspect asking personal information of the banking customer over the telephone, Mahle said.

"If this happens, you should report it to somebody," he said. "You shouldn’t give anyone personal information over the phone unless you initiate the call. You also should notify your financial institution if this happens, as well as call the police.

"There are a lot of dishonest people out there and this is just an opportunity to take advantage of someone."

More of these types of banking scams are expected as the millennium approaches, Mahle added.

But people should be aware that there is no such thing as a "Y2K Safe Fund," and that most banks have already taken the necessary precautions to protect their customers’ funds.

Desco is ready for the millennium, Mahle said.

"We’ve tested all of our systems, and we have been running a dual system," he said. "We are Y2K ready. We’ve also furnished information to our members about what they should expect and look for in the new millennium."

The bank, or other financial institution, is the safest place for anyone’s money when the year 2000 hits, Mahle said.

"The safest place for anyone to leave their money is in their financial institution rather than to keep it in a house where someone might steal it," he said. "All accounts are insured."

There are a few things people can do to ease their mind if they are worried, however, Mahle said.

"I think they should keep the last statement they receive from their financial institution," he said. "They should also keep the first one they get at the beginning of the year. These are things you should normally do, though, because that’s your record of all your financial transactions."