Banking Officials Say Watch Out for Y2K Scams

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As crooks cash in on the public's concern about Y2K to make some easy money, bankers and government officials are telling consumers all they have to fear is fear itself -- and the wiles of those scam artists.

In Kansas, the state attorney general's office says it has has been receiving up to six phone calls a week from consumers who suspect foul play in telemarketing offers. Lately, many people have reported fraudulent monetary inquiries.

In one scam, the caller claims to be a bank official who is testing individual accounts for Y2K compliance. Another scam involves a caller who says that the magnetic strip on the consumer's ATM or credit card must be changed to be Y2K-compliant. In both cases, the caller solicits information that enables him or her to break into the account.

Bob Schmermund, a spokesman for America's Community Bankers, a national association of 2,000 savings and community banks, said confidence tricksters are taking advantage of people's Y2K fears. The group, which launched an Ask Us About Y2K campaign in mid-March, recently circulated to member banks information on current scams. The printed materials will be passed on to consumers through bank mailings.

Banking officials are using special mailings and Internet communications, in addition to one-on-one counseling, to inform the public of Y2K issues.

As of the end of May, more than 98% of institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. were rated 'satisfactory' in terms of Y2K preparation, based on site inspections. Institutions receiving 'unsatisfactory' or 'needs improvement' ratings will receive intensified supervision, according to the FDIC web site.

Deposits of up to $100,000 will continue to be insured through the FDIC.