Abbreviating 2020 on Documents Could Increase Risk of Fraud

How to Lower Your Risk

(OnFocus) Shortening the year to “20” on checks and legal documents could open up the possibility of fraud in future.

A scammer could add onto the number to make the date “2015” or “2021,” as an example, to resurrect an uncashed expired check or alter the terms of a contract.

The year 2020 may have opened up new opportunities for crime, but people can take steps to lower their risk of getting scammed on their documents any year.

“Depending on the importance of the document you’re signing, I think putting the full date is never a bad idea,” said David Murphy, VP-Finance & Risk, Marshfield Medical Center Credit Union. “For us, we deal with member checks on a daily basis, so there is the potential dates are altered on handwritten checks that could change when a check could be cashed, or if a check is post-dated.”

For loans, the credit union retains the original document for any issues that might arise in future. “If you’re worried the other party may alter the date to negate the legality of a signed contract, I’d recommend they list the full 4-digit year,” he said.

Despite the warnings circulating this week in news reports and on social media, Murphy didn’t have additional concerns about the issue since the potential is always there to alter dates.

“Even during 2019, when everyone wrote x/x/19, you could add a 2-digit year at the end of 19 and make it a 19xx date instead,” he said. “Same could be said for January and February being changed to November or December: 1/x/2020 to 11/x/2020, or 2/x/2020 to 12/x/2020.”

Writing out the date can limit the chance that someone could cause havoc with the documents later. However, Murphy said his credit union wouldn’t reject a document that abbreviated 2020.

“In essence, if we have to tell our members we’ll only accept documents with the full year written out, then we’re telling them they shouldn’t trust we won’t alter the document,” he said, “which, to me, really could impact member trust.”

Whatever the real risk of abbreviating dates, the bottom line is — it doesn’t hurt to write it out.