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Many people abbreviate when writing dates on checks and other legal documents. However, according to sources like Newsweek, police departments and consumer advocates are cautioning against this practice now that 2020 is here.

What’s wrong with the MM/DD/YY format? Law enforcement says that shortening “2020” to just “20” can leave you open to fraud when signing checks, contracts, or other legally-binding documents.

Abbreviating 2020 increases fraud risk

The problem lies in the fact that the 20 can be altered to another date in the past or future for fraudulent purposes. This can be achieved by adding numbers after the 20. As an example, a check dated 02/05/20 could easily be changed to 02/05/2019, providing scammers an easy way to cash in. Backdating is the practice of marking a document, whether a contract, a check, or other legal document, with a date that is earlier. When done to defraud another person of money, this practice is illegal. According to the Better Business Bureau, pay orders, bank drafts, checks, and legal documents are vulnerable to manipulation so it pays to be vigilant when dating these kinds of documents.

It isn’t just backdating that worries law enforcement. Scammers can forge dates into the future just as easily – appending extra digits so that 04/02/20 becomes 04/02/2021. In this way, they could take a stale check and attempt to cash it later.

Avoid troubles down the line

Here’s another example that consumer advocates cite: a credit contract. Let’s say you are borrowing money and sign the contract with an abbreviated date of 1/15/20. A nefarious lender could, in theory, amend the date by tagging “19” on the end, and claim that you owe an extra year’s worth of payments. The problem is this is a legally-binding document that now states the contractual terms were in place earlier than they actually were.

While it’s true that other dates can be manipulated (though perhaps not as easily), it can’t hurt to be extra careful and write out the entire “2020.” The extra effort may help prevent issues from scammers down the line.

Sound legal advice you can count on

The personal injury attorneys at Rutter Mills represent clients throughout the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, including Norfolk, Newport News, Hampton, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth. Contact our office 24/7 to schedule a free consultation. Our award-winning legal team handles a broad range of issues involving serious personal injury, worker’s compensation, maritime law, and defective products.