Campus: CSU, Northridge -- December 2, 1999

CSUN Professor Takes Some of the Worry Out of Preparing for Y2K

Are you prepared for Y2K? As the end of the year approaches, that question seems to be asked with more and more urgency.

Cal State Northridge professor Allen Martin, director of the university's Consumer Resource Center, has some advice to take part of the worry out of preparing for the year 2000.

"Use common sense," Martin said. "It sounds so simple, but it works. Basically, if it didn't make sense before all the hype concerning Y2K began, then it doesn't make sense today."

Martin said the worst case Y2K scenario involves the closing of some banks and ATMs and the temporary loss of water and power.

"There will be no massive disaster," he said. Instead, he cautioned consumers to keep an eye out for scam artists trying to capitalize on the Y2K hysteria.

CSUN's Consumer Resource Center and other consumer hotlines throughout the state are receiving complaints about high-pressure sales tactics to buy gold as an alternative to cash.

There also have been complaints about auto mechanics who claim microchips in a car's electrical system are not Y2K compliant and need to be replaced; people posing as manufacturer representatives and repairmen who illegally enter a home under the guise of repairing a heating, cooling or alarm system; and bogus software sold to Y2K proof home computers.

"Some experts have even predicted scams in areas you would never think of," Martin said. He pointed to one that has funeral industry con artists and unethical estate planners and lawyers trying to cash in on the "Anniversary Reaction" theory, which suggests many frail and elderly people are just "holding on" for the big event and will die once the hype is over.

Martin offered some simple tips for getting through the new year:

  • Take out an extra week or two's worth of money before the end of the year. But Martin cautioned that keeping a lot of cash at home is dangerous and suggested getting some money in travelers' checks. "Merchants are much more likely to take travelers' checks over a personal check if the banking system is not fully functional or if power is interrupted," he said.

  • Prepare as if you are going on vacation or planning for a disaster:
    • Pay your bills in advance. Mail your Jan. 1 bills by Dec. 30 so they are "in the system" before anything happens.
    • Fill your car up with gas before the end of the month.
    • Stock up on water and non-perishable foods (about three days worth), batteries and candles.

  • If you are a victim of price-gouging, keep receipts to document the act so it can get redressed later.

  • Have routine automobile service done before the year's end and get a copy of your service record in case the computer crashes at the service center.

  • Keep copies of all bank and credit transactions in December and January, including automatic payments and deposits.

  • Get prescriptions filled in advance in case there is a disruption in the delivery system.

When the clock hits 12:00:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2000, Martin said disaster will not hit. He pointed out that threatening dates such as 9/9/99 have already passed with virtually no disruption in services.

"Look at this as an opportunity to get your finances and other records in order." he said. "Panicky stockpiling or drastically rearranging your personal finances is not sound judgement. But common sense will be necessary.

"Besides," he added, "all our clocks don't turn over at the same time."

For more information about preparing for Y2K or to learn about other consumer issues, call the CSUN Consumer Resource Center at (818) 677-4726.

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