It is a common practice for most people to abbreviate the date when signing documents. But law enforcement agencies nationwide are advising individuals: do not abbreviate 2020 when dating and signing documents as it opens the door to potential fraud.
As reported in Newsweek, “this is a problem is to do specifically with the year 2020, as abbreviating 2019 as “19” could only be changed to a date in the 1900s and abbreviating 2018 as “18” could only be changed to a date in the 1800s. Changing a document’s date from 2019 to 1999 would be a lot more difficult to fake as it would be a 20-year difference, compared to changing a document’s date from 2020 to 2019, which is only a one-year difference.”
Ira Rheingold is executive director for the National Association of Consumer Advocates, a nationwide nonprofit of over 1,500 attorneys and consumer advocates committed to the protection of consumer interests. He contacted numerous media sources including USA Today and CNN stating that those with nefarious intentions can take advantage of the abbreviated year to — among many other things — try and cash old checks or establish proof of unpaid debts. Though Rheingold says that it is still very early in the year for this type of fraud to have materialized, he also warns, “The dawn of a new decade also creates a unique opportunity for scammers.”
As an example, by shortening the date on a document to read 2/14/20, the year can very easily be changed by adding two numbers to the end: 2/14/2017 or 2/14/2023.
This ultimately alters the legal impact of those documents. In some instances, this modification could result in voiding or otherwise negatively modifying the documents. It could also reestablish other documents as valid.
The possibility for scammers or fraudsters to take advantage of this very simple habit are widespread, which is why police departments, consumer advocates, financial and legal professionals as well as numerous others, including title companies, are warning consumers to be extra cautious.
“Say you agreed to make payments beginning on 1/15/20. The bad guy could theoretically establish that you began owing your obligation on 1/15/2019, and try to collect additional $$$,” wrote Rheingold in his correspondence to various media outlets.
The solution to thwarting this issue is simple: write out the year 2020 in full. Even better, officials suggest avoiding any type of issue by write out the date completely: February 03, 2020.
If you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution, make one beginning today to write out the year 2020 in full.