Warning: How Abbreviating 2020 on Documents Could Make You Vulnerable to Fraud

Here's how to protect yourself from would-be scammers.

2020 New Year Blocks
Photo: Ko Hong-Wei/EyeEm/Getty Images

A word of warning as we enter 2020.

Earlier this week, a police department in Maine issued a bit of advice via their Facebook page about abbreviating 2020 in the new year.

According to the East Millinocket Police Department, writing "20" instead of "2020" when signing legal and/or professional documents can allow scammers to easily modify the date to include a different year.

"March 3rd, 2020 being written as 3/3/20 could be modified to 3/3/2017 or 3/3/2018," the post (below) explains. "Protect yourself."

Commenters were quick to point out that any abbreviated date can be modified, which led the police department to elaborate on why only writing "20" is particularly dangerous. In an edit to the original Facebook caption, the department explained that altered "20" dates are far more likely to elude detection than "19" dates due to the fact that the appearance of a document from 1999 would raise more red flags than a 2019 document in 2020.

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Ira Rheingold, the executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, echoed the police department's warning.

In a message emailed to USA Today, Rheingold said scammers could use the method to establish an unpaid debt or to attempt to cash an old check.

"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 $$$," he explained.

The solution? Write out the full date. It could save you some trouble down the road.

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