Abbreviating 2020 on legal documents: Does this leave you open to fraud?

ByAlex Meier WPVI logo
Saturday, January 4, 2020
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For anyone who's logged onto social media this week, it's impossible to miss this viral warning: Do not abbreviate 2020 on legal documents.

This warning apparently started as a meme, which was then shared by a police station in a small Maine town Wednesday and picked up by news outlets nationally.

"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 meme, posted to East Millinocket Police Department's Facebook page, read.

Al Redmer, Maryland's insurance commissioner, also noted that someone, like a landlord, could easily change the abbreviated date "20" to "2021," giving the appearance that a payment never went through.

The Better Business Bureau wrote that checks, bank drafts, pay orders, bills and legal documents are susceptible to alteration, so fraudsters may look to take advantage of the decade change.

At this time, no evidence indicates that this specific forgery tactic has been successful. East Millinocket Police even updated their original post with clarification, stating:

"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."

Yet consumers should always be vigilant, as check fraud accounted for 47% -- or $1.3 billion -- of industry deposit account fraud losses, according to an American Bankers Association report.

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of fraud, make sure to regularly scrutinize bank statements for incorrect or fraudulent charges.

If you have a problem, notify your bank ASAP. All banks and credit card companies give you 60 days to report fraud after it appears on your statement.