The Y2K Challenge Series: Watch out for scams

Government officials are warning anyone interested in products related to Y2K or the millennium bug to be on the lookout for scam artists. Ontario Consumer Affairs Minister Bob Runciman issued the warning this week, noting that there are those who “are seeking to exploit the Y2K problem for their own benefit.”

Be on the lookout for phone calls from scam artists who claim to be agents of banks, insurance companies, credit card companies, investment firms or the government. They may say they need your bank account number to ensure you’ll receive your pension cheque. They may promise they’ll insure your household equipment or car against failure. They could say they’ll “make sure your money is safe until after the New Year.”

It’s very likely that they are really in business just to take your money dishonestly. Never give out credit card numbers or any banking information over the telephone unless you place the call yourself and know the company. If you’re suspicious of a promoter, call your province’s consumers affairs office.

Another scam to watch for is “Y2K upgrades” for equipment. Companies have spent millions of dollars to develop Y2K compliance upgrades for homeomputers and many other products. So it’s not likely you’ll find them being sold in “kits” promoted at your door, over the phone or in your e-mail. If in doubt, call the manufacturer directly and ask for advice, or visit the company’s website.

Ads for Y2K “emergency supply kits” that say they’ll get you through a period when you don’t have heat, electricity or water, have been seen across North America. The “kits” are usually a rip-off, and may include candles, canned food and matches–at up to ten times the price similar items would cost at the local store. Instead, prepare your own emergency kit, which could also come in handy during a simple rain or snow storm. For more tips, visit the website listed below.