Consumer Tips.)(Bank Safeguards as the Year 2000 Approaches; Cellular Telephones; and Tick Removal

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Bank Protection from Y2K

With the year 2000 approaching, consumers should be particularly watchful of their bank accounts; computer problems resulting from the Y2K computer glitch could affect their account information or records of their financial activity. To help, the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) offers suggestions for consumers to safeguard their bank accounts:

--Keep records of all your banking transactions, such as deposit receipts, ATM withdrawals, loan payments, investments, and statements, particularly during the last six months of 1999 and the early months of 2000. Should there be any mistakes in the banking information systems, you'll be able to correct any errors that occur.

--Make sure your deposit accounts are within the federal insurance limits. Any amount under $100,000 on deposit is fully protected by the federal government. Amounts over $100,000 held in different types of ownership accounts such as joint accounts or retirement accounts, are insured separately up to $100,000. To get more information on FDIC deposit insurance ask your banker, or call the FDIC Division of Compliance and Consumer affairs at (800) 934-3342 or you can e-mail them at consumer@fdic.gov.

--Obtain a printed copy of your debt payment history: payments on your mortgage or car loan, including how much of each payment goes toward principal and interest. Be sure that there are no mistakes.

--It's also important to monitor your credit report for errors. Get a copy of your credit report this year. Once you've checked it for mistakes, get another copy in 2000 to see if any banking errors have occurred. For a copy of your credit report, call either Equifax at (800) 685-1111, Experian at (800) 682-7654, or Trans Union at (800) 888-4213. Credit reports should not cost more $8, and might be free of charge, but it's best to request one from each credit bureau in case there are variations.

--If you bank on-line using your home computer, make sure your software is Y2K compliant. Information and software that can help you are readily available. (See "The Year 2000 Problem and You," CR, December 1998.)

--Lastly, ask your banker what is being done to correct this situation. You can also get a free brochure from the Federal Trade Commission called "Y2k, Y2Care," that describes what you can do to protect your finances. Call (202) 382-4357 or visit the FTC web site, www.ftc.gov and click on "consumer protection. …