It isn't news that scam artists prey on people's fears. Today's hucksters are trying to take advantage of anxiety that year 2000, or Y2K, computer problems may mess up some modern conveniences at year end.

That possibility is bringing con artists out of the woodwork. Don't bite on these tricks:

1. Someone calls claiming to be from a credit union or bank where you conduct business. The caller confides, "We're a little behind in our Y2K corrections. To be sure your accounts are safe, we'd like to transfer your money into a special, safe account for the time being. If you'll just give us your account numbers for verification, we'll make the transfer and you'll be all set." Totally bogus—don't do it.

2. A promoter sends unsolicited e-mail—OK, let's call a spam a spam—pitching you investment opportunities in products or companies supposedly able to fix the Y2K problem, and you can cash in! Bogus—don't invest.

3. A caller says he or she is from your credit card company, checking to make sure your card will be shipshape in the new millennium. The company is going to send you a new "stripe" to place over the old, flawed magnetic strip on the back of your card. But first ... you'll have to supply the account number for verification. Bogus again.

In each case, notify your financial institution, card issuer, the local police department, and/or the consumer protection office in your state.

Follow these guidelines, and discuss them with older people you think may be vulnerable to the exploits of fearmongers:
  • Never give out account information to someone who's called you. Your credit union or any other reputable institution will not ask you to divulge this information.

  • Conduct financial business only at your initiative, not a caller's.

  • Trust your instincts—if something doesn't seem right, contact the credit union to check on the call. Ask the people at your credit union about its Y2K preparations if you're concerned. They can tell you how well things are really going.

©1999 Credit Union National Association Inc.