2020 is a new year and a new decade. Unfortunately, it’s also a new opportunity for scammers.
Consumer advocates, accountants and police departments are warning people to not abbreviate the year when writing or typing it out: in other words, instead of 1/10/20, make it 1/10/2020.
Often when we need to write or type out the date, it’s on a contract, an official form or document, or a check. If you abbreviate the year, someone who wants to take advantage of you can easily add two numbers to the end and change the date on that document.
A scammer can easily change 1/10/20 to 1/10/2021, and this leaves you vulnerable to fraud.
Let’s say you buy something with a “no interest for a year” or “no payment required for a year” offer. You sign the credit contract and date it 1/15/20. The creditor can add “18” to the end and begin charging you interest and/or late fees immediately — or even sell that contract to a debt collector. This could affect your credit rating, subject you to harassing phone calls, and require you to spend a great deal of money cleaning up that mess.
Conversely, suppose you sign a contract for someone to deliver a product or service right away. You issue payment in good faith, but the other party may change the date on the contract to 1/15/2021, and state that they don’t owe you anything until next year.
Writing the full month can also help, especially if there is a chance one or more of the people involved in the transaction is overseas. In many countries, the standard date format places the day before the month: 10 January 2020.
Hence, the United States’ numeric abbreviation “1/10/2020” would appear to be the first of October in the UK, leading to a misunderstanding about when the agreement begins.
But if you wrote or typed “Jan. 10, 2020,” everyone would understand it correctly.
We haven’t seen any reports of fraud, scams or misunderstandings as of yet. Still, it's important to know and protect against the risk.
Your bank account will thank you!