The Year 2020: Don’t Abbreviate it!

Writing "20" instead of "2020" could pose a fraud risk.

Now that we’ve started a new year, you should be extra careful when dating checks and legal documents.

Specifically, don’t abbreviate 2020 as “20.” Doing so could create a risk of fraud.

“By writing out the date as 01/01/20 (January 1, 2020), the date can be fraudulently changed to 2019, 2021, or any other date in this century,” according to this Newsweek article. “Instead, make sure when you’re dating documents in 2020 that you write the year out in full, to protect yourself against fraud.”

This problem is unique to the year 2020, since “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.”

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One of the first warnings about the potential risk came from the East Millinocket Police Department in Maine. The department reposted the following meme (which was originally posted by a law office) on its Facebook page.

“When signing and dating legal documents, do not use 20 as the year 2020. March 3rd, 2020 being written as 3/3/20 could be modified to 3/3/2017 or 3/3/2018. Protect yourself. Do not abbreviate 2020.”

The post seemed innocuous enough. But it generated a surprising amount of controversy. Some commenters pointed out that all dates – regardless of the year – can be altered. Others accused the police of “fearmongering.”

All of which prompted the department to post the following clarification, according to Yahoo News: “Please understand that we handle scam and fraud calls on a regular basis so we try to provide our small community with tips to avoid potential problems. Of course we understand that all dates can be altered. Criminals are always looking for ways to take advantage of people. This meme provided a tip that we felt has some validity so this is why we shared it. It is not intended as legal advice or a warning, only as a cautionary tip to consider.”

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